Few bloggers are making me think more these days than George Siemens and Barbara Ganley, and today they both hit on the same themes and make so much sense that for this moment, at least, I plan on packing up my office, leaving my public high school job and begging some small university somewhere to let me come in and teach a writing class or two filled with blogs and wikis and podcasts, asking only for a laptop, a high speed connection and a family meal plan at faculty dining facility as compensation. (This will pass I’m sure.)
First, George blogs an imaginary conversation that’s not so imaginary between him and someone seeking to understand what these new Web technologies are instead of what they make possible. And what they make possible is his (I think) well articulated theory of Connectivism which explains how learning happens in a digital era. It states, briefly, that old theories of learning are becoming obsolete because they can’t account for the speed at which learners are being asked to consume and process information these days. That whereas we used to have the time to “construct” our learning and experience it, now we need to be able to connect to the information and people who will make us smarter. He says that we are actually “aggregators,” a term that definitely hits home for me. And here is the key line, I think:
We are continually connecting…but we are not always constructing.
See my previous post in terms of not being able to construct. But understand that nowadays, the connection is just as important as the construction. I didn’t stop reading and thinking. And this:
…connectivism should change much of how we educate learners – both in public and corporate education. Courses, programs, and knowledge fields are re-shaped to permit learners to form connections based on interest and need.
Why? Because we can, if, of course, we have access to those resources. (BTW, look at what Massachusetts is thinking along those lines.) I know I’m getting repetitive here, but it’s just becoming so clear to me how absolutely imperative it is to have access to all of this information and all of these people and to think seriously about what a dramatic shift having it requires in our pedagogy.
Like Barbara, whose post today is one of those posilutely must read snippets of professional blogging practice that very few of us have been able to get to, myself included. (Hence the professorship wish…) Want some Siemens-esque profundity?
…the first attempts at blogging by my first-years have me convinced that sustained blogging over the years, not just in the classroom, but after and outside the classroom experience, as a way to reflect on and discuss the connections between the lessons learned inside the class and the world outside our walls, is perhaps the most promising way to use blogging and other social software in a liberal arts institution
Whoa. The rest of the post is just as insightful. My connection to Barbara, my aggregation of her ideas (and George’s for that matter) is a significant part of my learning practice today. Yes, in the process of creating this blog post, I am constructing another face to this learning, one that in no small part imprints it on my brain and deepens my understanding of it. But this learning is driven by my own interest and need to learn about it. I am self-taught in the world of blogs and wikis and rss, just as any student can become self-taught in the world of auto mechanics, or biology or armaments of the Civil War.
So the question becomes, what is the role of the teacher in all of this? Well, isn’t it to facilitate those connections within the structure of, as George says, the competencies we seek to teach? Listen when Barbara talks about how her students take over their own learning in the course. Or how Clarence Fisher, Konrad Glogowski and Darren Kuropatwa write about what’s happening in their blogging students. (All three Canadians, btw…hmmm.) Without going over the top, there is almost a sense of reverence for what’s happening. These are truly transitional, transformative classrooms that are pushing us in interesting directions, leading us to…
…a different learning space.
Oy. That job change fantasy hasn’t passed quite yet…