Connectivism

Connectivism… alright, where to begin?  I found this to be a difficult session.  I struggled to maintain focus and although I understand the concepts that were presented, getting my mind wrapped around the subject matter this week seemed to be somewhat more labored.  It might be because it was fairly heavy material or it might be a result of taking 2 grad classes, teaching two new subjects from what I’m used to and coaching football while trying to maintain a healthy marriage and family.  Who knows? 

Upon first reading this week’s questions, I felt frustrated as I really don’t know what my opinions are related to these issues.  The fact is that although I am becoming increasingly more comfortable incorporating technology into my personal approach to education, I still feel that I’m not versed in the subject enough to offer an educated response.  I have been attending all of the eluminate sessions, I have been doing all of the readings, blogging and trying my best to keep up with all of my colleagues’ blogs, but have I truly been practicing connectivism myself?  

I am still struggling with the concept of connecting with all of the members of this network as I find it frustrating at times to try and tune out the noise from what is truly being said in our online sessions.  The point has already been made by a number of colleagues, but I find the chatter (some very helpful and some very off topic) to be distracting.  This past week’s session was a very good example of this.  As the material being presented was fairly dense, I paid little attention to the chat and focused on the presentation.  I’m not sure how connected I truly was.  Did I experience the true value of connectivism by simply watching a presentation online? 

As far as the implications of this for education, I think it is essential that I, as well as the rest of our profession, become literate in this regard.  Although I don’t think we should base our entire educational system around the digital world, we can’t continue to stick our heads in the mud and pretend that technology isn’t a reality in the lives of our youth.  As much as I may find it to be a humbling experience to realize that I have a lot to learn if I have any hope of staying connected/becoming connected with my students, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect a trained professional to step out of his or her comfort zone in an effort to stay up to date in his or her craft.  Medicine, law, engineering and most every other profession requires its members to stay on top of the latest innovations and ensure best practice, so it is fair to expect the same out of education. 

With that being said, we need the backing of our society to invest the time and resources into this as well.  Facilities will need to be upgraded.  Teachers will need to be properly trained – the typical one-day PD session during school start-up will not suffice.  Perhaps we could even think about mandating student teachers to take a “computers in the classroom” course in place of one of the always useful EPS classes we were all made to endure. 

Once trained, there is no question that our teaching strategies will be much different in an online network rather than in a traditional classroom, but, much like Allison mentions in her blog relating to the same matter, I am ignorant of what this will look like as I have nothing to base my opinion on.  My only experience in this field has come from the four classes we have had together.  My gut feeling however is that unlike some traditional high school courses, where students are required to take certain classes that they perhaps might not care for and a teacher may need to try and coax the student to open up to the content, teaching students in an established network of similar interests would allow educators to truly dive into the course material and teach for deeper understanding. 

This brings up the next issue which deals with the changing priorities of skills that need to be developed in this type of setting.  Once again, as I am still somewhat of a neophyte in this domain, my opinion is purely based on speculation, but it would seem to me that if learners are placed in an environment where they have any nature of information available at their fingertips, instruction dealing with ethics and responsible use of technology would be the most obvious skill that I would hope my child would be provided with.  It is great for students to be given the ability and freedom to network and align themselves with others of similar interests, but students would also need to be made aware of the potential risks associated with sharing too much information – both with people who may not be a part of their network for the best reasons, as well as how some information posted on the web in a foolish moment may come back later to haunt them. 

As far as where we’d turn for guidance, the first idea that popped into my mind was, “How about an eluminate session?”  It seems there is already a large network of people who are passionate, knowledgeable and more than willing to share their expertise.  Consultants and IT people at the provincial and school division level might need to be hired or those who are already in place may have to assume a more visible role and provide the support and guidance required to ensure these resources are being properly implemented and used.

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