Archive for November, 2010

Teaching the revolution

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2010 by onepercentyellow

Hi Alec

Here are my delayed reflections on the snippet of conversation I caught the night we were all at the Flying Fox during Learning 2.010.  Questions I will continue to ask, no doubt.

I was a little sad that I didn’t get to fully engage in the conversations happening at the Flying Fox, but life goals and sheer delight kept me deeply engrossed in musical musings.  The one part of the conversation that did catch my attention was the discussion on teaching the revolution.  This is such a complex issue, and one that I am hoping to engage with as a part of my own educational journey in the hopes that I will also one day roam the halls of academia as one of the profs.  who open the doors of perception for her students.

My contentions come not only in the power relations between students and professors.  I have had the pleasure of being in some truly supportive alternative classrooms where assessment can be flexible not only because of the beliefs of the professor, but also because of the intimate relationships built in those classrooms.  While I have never had my own group of students, I imagine that during the course of a semester you can begin to identify through in-class dialogue, submitted assignments, quiz/testing scores as well as interaction within the larger community, who the “A” students are and who needs to gain further analytical/reporting skills (with proper referrals to other courses or campus facilities).  The problem is, at the end of the day, you are still required within the system to hand out marks, and these marks have real impacts on the lives of your students, determining what scholarships they are eligible for as well as future academic prospects.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but your choice of assessment can also have a very real impact on your own career.  Discussions with English professors lamenting the quality of 100-level students revealed the repercussions of failing an entire section of a course: students contesting grades and problems for professors.

So putting aside the problem of grading for the moment (though I recognize the system has real effects for students and profs.), how is it possible to teach the revolution within your own classroom?  How can one remain true to the ethics and beliefs one has cultivated as a learned individual, while still allowing space for students to rail against these pre-constructed notions of truth?  Is the most effective teaching method one in which students rebel against the professor as a power-knowledge broker?  Or is the only revolution worth participating in the one I tell my students about in my classroom?  Is my classroom merely a space for me to amass a larger cohort to spread my ideas of change?

And as a student, when I enter a classroom that promises to be a safe place to explore alternate realities, should I trust that anything within reason can be explored?  Certainly I realize that I am expected to closely scrutinize my own perception of truth, but how far am I allowed to stretch the boundaries of the classroom?  How should my explorations be valued by my professor, and am I able to expect that my revolution is as valid as the one being taught to me?

Perhaps what I am asking is how to be a respectful revolutionary student and teacher.  How do I respect someone else’s revolution while I sew the seeds of my own?  And how do I deal with professors who claim they want me to find my own path to change, but don’t actually support me in that endeavour?  How do I approach those who refuse to provide points of clarification on their own revolution?

Of course this is a postmodernist approach to the teaching profession.  The goal becomes teaching a revolution that can be deconstructed by students and rebelled against.  Interestingly enough, I have had a professor whose classroom seemed to be that complex.  His revolution was radical Christianity as a cure to the post-modern ills within the framework of a 100-level Sociology course.  It turned out that he really was a radical Christian and was not actually encouraging the class to consider other frameworks, but was looking for conversion of his students.  He remains a great example of how adopting a viewpoint outside the dominant paradigm can encourage students to reevaluate prescribed reality, deconstruct it, and create their own revolution.  The course was unique and engaging, though I continue to ponder how one can teach students to rebel without losing control of the class.  How does one then approach assessment at the end of the day, not only in the difficulty of the rubric, but also in the setting aside of a personal agenda in order to evaluate how a student has performed in the process of thought, not just the product?  Do you mark students higher if they turn their rebellion on you?  In that case, do I bother hosting a polite revolution in my upcoming courses? Exhausting thought!

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Connectivism in Elluminate with George Siemens

Posted in MAIS with tags , , , , on November 19, 2010 by onepercentyellow

I recently had the great fortune of bringing together a community of people I respect.  We came together for a presentation on connectivism and a guest lecture by George Siemens.  First of all, I would like to thank George for coming to my session, and demonstrating what integrity in learning looks like.

While I recognize it is only one aspect of connectivism, the consistency between the words and actions of a teacher is key to establishing trust in a learning connection.  As the tenets of connectivism make no judgment in themselves on any type of hierarchy of connections, we can see any new connection as something worthwhile that has the potential to create new or interesting knowledge.  In agreeing to come to the session, and for staying much longer than originally anticipated, George gave me hope that I had the potential to create valuable knowledge in interaction with his theory.  While I’m not sure I had much interesting to say in the session (I was awfully nervous), I hope that my reflections on the theory from the perspective of some of the people in the room will help me elucidate some of the strong attributes of and questions I have for connectivism.

If we can consider anything consisting of a set of connections to be a learning thing, and if this includes biological systems such as our brain patterns, then could we also consider ecosystems and our planet to be learning things?  We certainly establish the first patterns in our pre-reflective mind by interacting with the forces of nature.  As we get older we begin to take for granted the physical nature of our being and begin to engage in the constructed reality around us, but as environmental educators and stewards remind us, the natural world is an entity with which it is important to connect.  The knowledge we can create with the natural world can be astoundingly beautiful and have dramatic effects on our systems of meaning and our health.

In addition, I see connectivism as a view of learning that could be used in community service-learning (CSL) models.  The image of connection between theories (shifting application of thought) and experience (shifting instance of being), is also at the root of CSL.  The deepening of a student’s relationship with a professor, theory or an organization that becomes possible when the connection between entities is considered an important aspect of knowledge, has the potential to fundamentally affect change in all entities.

Of course, as in all education, I must question where the power lays in this system.  In the online world it seems to hinge on the status as an early adopter, and by the amount that an individual contributes to a community.  In the analogue world, a relationship with a professor would seem to follow the same rules.  With the seemingly a-ethical stance of the theory, I wonder where grounding principals come from.  Connections are where knowledge is created, so any connection has merit.  It is the creation of knowledge that lends merit to the existence of connections.  What is the point of creating knowledge?  Is this a fundamental human need?  Or is the fundamental need to create connections and knowledge comes about as a fine side-effect?  I suppose I wonder what the underlying motivation is within the theory, as I am a bit skeptical of knowledge for knowledge sake.

Finally, the economics of connectivism continue to perplex me.  While there is much sharing and liberation of knowledge happening in the online world, the gift economy must be more sustainable to challenge our present economic model and the economy of privacy complicates our view of what comprises capital.  In the meantime I wonder how George encourages himself to make time to connect personally with small groups of people.  I hope that he enjoyed the session.  I certainly gained a lot in hosting it.

The elluminate recording will be available for about 2 weeks before my temporary account expires.  I hope you have a chance to check it out.  George begins his discussion at about 6 minutes in.

Elluminate Recording

 

 

A stranger’s just a tweep you haven’t met.

Posted in Online with tags , , , on November 15, 2010 by onepercentyellow

This overdue post comes after my first elluminate session, and my first youtube posting of a presentation.  My… how far I’ve come into my digital self over the last two months!

I had the strangest experience this weekend at Learning 2.010 in Shanghai.  For the first time I took my digital self into the analogue world to meet people I had only known peripherally through Twitter.  Actually, I realize that with my mere 668 tweets to their 5720 (@klbeasley), 19320 (@intrepidteacher), and 45604 (@courosa), I know them a lot better than they know me.  A few things came up for me during this first crossover experience, and as I move further into the digital world, I thought it would be neat to record my thoughts on this journey for posterity.

A travel journal of the crossing of the digital/analogue divide

So I walked into Big Bamboo, ordered myself a beer, and sat back to survey the room.  The sports bar, normally filled with tables of expats there to watch the game or play a bit of pool, was packed with teachers.  I have a friend who can tell someone’s occupation at a glance; these folks would look like teachers in the dark.  I was immediately heartened that I had found the right place and would hopefully be able to connect with some of the folks that I know through tidbits of thought, cool links, and interesting apps.  A walk around the pub didn’t present any identifiable tweeps, but I was sure if I sat in one place, they would be sure to find me.  I sat for a bit, but quickly realized that my usual engaging self was cowering somewhere in the corner as I looked around at this sea of un-e-dentifiable faces.

Do I know that person?  Gee, those avatars sure are small, when you think about it.  Wait, do I even remember that person’s name?  Do I remember their @name?  Can you call someone by their @name?  Do we really have anything to talk about?  Hold on a minute…

As people floated by me in the pub I found that I met their eye less and less, staring into my pint that was emptying at an alarming rate.  I was in trouble, so I booked it back to Puxi (West Shanghai), and went to a house party with a friend.

At this house party I was again surrounded by a group of teachers, but this time not only was I introduced by a real-live person, but I also had my ukulele.  It always makes me feel more confident.  People can’t help but smile when there’s music being created.

After the reassurance that I could indeed meet new people, even if they were teachers, I woke up the next day even more determined to make it to the conference before everyone had dispersed for the day.  I wanted to meet my first tweeple, and I had spent the day with my confidence being bolstered by @plind, a trusted source who had “boldly gone before” me in traversing the analogue-digital divide.  She also linked me to @intrepidteacher for a post to validate my feelings of disorientation at avatars and digital representations of self.

By the time I arrived at the conference, my digital self was ready to present. I arrived before the end of the last sessions, and waited in the conference hall, eyes peeled for those tiny little digital faces to appear.  Perhaps if I caught sight of people from far away it would make it easier.  As people started filtering into the room, I began to feel uncomfortable again.  I began writing about my feelings of frustration from the day before as a way to occupy my twitching mind.

Then it happened… I looked up and saw @intrepidteacher across the room!  Nervous, but certain in my resolve I walked over to where he was having a conversation with someone and politely waited to say hello.  In the meantime, up walked @klbeasley!  This was my first digital/analogue handshake and she quickly introduced me as @onepercentyello, @plind’s little sister.  Some things about being the younger sister never change.  I also had the fine opportunity to meet @courosa, one of the first people I followed, and @mscofino who I watched across the firewall in the K-12 online conference pre-note for 2009.  (Oh, how many times I tried to get that whole video to play!  Firewalls suck!)  I even got to meet @jutecht, the organizer of the conference and legendary web presence.  Finally, as with any great gathering I met a whole host of new friends: @betchaboy, @chamada, @dearlibrariann, @melindaalford and a Noice chick that I can’t find her @name at the moment! (@lissgriffin)

And this time I had my ukulele as well, and the musical meanderings continued with @klbeasley’s amazing soprano.

Since this conference I have found my twitter use increasing at an alarming rate.  Even my sister, @plind sent me a #bigsistweet, knowing it was late in China and I was still chatting with tweeps worldwide.  What’s more is that I have deepened my understanding of these tiny squares of faces and their 140 characters.  And through that deepening connection, I have come to meet additional analogue and digital friends like @drgarcia and @amichetti who introduced me to @savasavasava.  Of course the connection does not stop there, though for the sake of coherence, this post really must.

So, next time there’s a tweetup anywhere in your viscinity, take the unique opportunity to meld your personalities.  You can even use @betchaboy’s idea and wear your @name on your t-shirt for easy identification.

Connectivism

Posted in Online with tags , , , on November 9, 2010 by onepercentyellow

NOTE: George Siemens will be in an elluminate session on Connectivism on Monday, Nov. 15th at 7 pm. Alberta time.  If you’d like to join us for this short session, please follow this link: http://www.elluminate.com/trial/p.go?pk=AQGQgtHvgZta3gfs

 

This is the basic transcript for my presentation on connectivism for Athabasca’s MDDE611 course.

I followed the pecha kucha format, a style of presentation that attempts to use 20 slides for 20 seconds each.  This is also my first attempt at making a video in imovie.

I hope to follow this presentation with a synchronous session with theory architect, George Siemens, later in the week.

Leslie

Connections – from the sequence that just made up your last train of thought, to the linked flights that transported you to the other side of the world on your last vacation; from the associate that introduced you to your last job, to the grammar holding together the sentences on your resume, the human experience is built on connections.

In a new learning theory called connectivism, George Siemens and Stephen Downes develop the thesis that knowledge is not something externally constructed  – reality is not something that exists “out there” – nor is it internally constructed – something that I simply build in my own mind – rather, knowledge is what emerges when two learning entities are connected.

Connection, from Latin connectere, ‘con’ meaning ‘together’ and ‘nectere’ meaning ‘bind’, is the basis of this learning theory.  Two learning entities are connected if a signal sent from one entity has the potential to affect the state of the other entity.  Without a connection, learning cannot happen.

The learning entities encompassed by connectivism are diverse, and it is only the presence of connections that determines if something is a learning entity.   Everything from our physical brain to our individual mind, from our socially constructed families, organizations, cultures, and countries, to our technologies and even our planet can be considered a learning thing.

From the instant one neuron connects with another, our learning brain begins to form.  Our existential self connects past, present and future self into a learning individual.  As learning individuals we connect with other individuals to create learning societies.

In our technologically mediated world we must also consider the connections in our digital devices as indicative of their status as learning entities.  While I sleep, my ipod automatically connects with other entities in order to update expired information, the same way I consult individuals for new developments in my learning society.

The explosion of readily-available information has spurred this revolution in educational philosophy.  With so much information available, teaching in Friere’s banking-model is even more problematic.  It becomes the equivalent of encouraging students to fill their head with pennies rather than teaching them how to make a living.

In order to avoid walking around with a brain full of useless change, I cache information in a variety of centers.  My brain develops pathways in particular neurological patterns, I fuse information to particular memories, people, and places for easy retrieval, and I rely on my digital devices to hold a wide variety of information – from complex theories to my daily planner.  In a way all of these things have become a part of my phenomenological mind.

My ability to create, maintain, and traverse the connections between me and my information caches is the most important skill I will develop in my lifetime.  While this skill has always been present – the first human societies were formed around survival connections – this has not always been the focus of our education system.

Knowledge since Guttenberg has been conceptualized as a fairly static entity.  Accessible in a book and acquired bit by bit through intense prolonged study, and since there was little knowledge to be found, within a lifetime it was possible to know most of what was worth knowing.

Presently our information is increasing exponentially, and knowledge seems elusive in a sea of post-modern relativism.  Siemens and Downes posit it is not that knowledge has been submerged under this wash of information, but that we are now able to see the non-propositional nature of knowledge as it really is.

In connectivism, knowledge is emergent from the connections between entities.  It is not a static thing that can be pinned down in words for all time, but contextual, process-driven, and constantly shifting.  This depiction of knowledge as something of an organic entity is reflected in the language of connectivism: connections and networks are grown and nurtured rather than constructed or formed.

With this view of knowledge, the important role of connection becomes clear, and the focus of teaching and learning presents itself.  Siemens and Downes argue that the connections between entities are more important than the information passed between entities.  If the connections are pipes and the information is what is in the pipe then the existence of the pipe itself is more important than its contents.

This aspect of the theory appears a-ethical and certainly conjures images of the most damaging forms of propaganda, but after much deliberation, I must agree.  By placing the emphasis of education on connections, the role of the professor is to model connectivism, demonstrating to students how conclusions are reached in consultation rather than disseminating the conclusions on their own as doctrine.

In teaching students how to grow their own set of connections, professors liberate their students from a by-rote mentality and invite them into the live, messy, and exhilarating process of knowledge experience.  Students become interactive with others, excited to discover the knowledge that can exist in any new connection.

In this dynamic milieu, knowledge ceases being a commodity on offer to those students willing to take on debt-load for access to the piece of paper that grants better jobs.  Knowledge, instead, rightfully takes its place as a process of forming relationships and nurturing the depth and meaning of those relationships through the complexity of trust.

Vetted knowledge, once a collection of words on the printed page, has become a shifting hypothesis representing the interaction of information between, across and through learning entities. And this is much in-line with humanist perspectives on how teaching should be conducted, connectivism implies that the source of information, or the nodes to which one is connected is important.  It is not enough for my professor to simply pour Nietzche down the pipe and into my brain.  My ability to form a connection with my professor determines my ability to accept any information that passes to me from a teacher.

For more information, please watch the following videos:

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/688902

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BH-uLO6ovI&feature=channel

The connectivism blog outlining its unique ideas:

http://www.connectivism.ca/?p=116

A chart outlining major learning theories in comparison to connectivism:

https://docs.google.com/Doc?id=anw8wkk6fjc_14gpbqc2dt

And a discussion around the differences between connectivism and constructivism:

http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2010/09/26/connectivism-constructivism-plenk-2010/

If anyone could identify the song in the youtube video, it would be appreciated. 🙂