Saturday, 27 February 2010

My thoughts (changing)?

What has struck me as most interesting among the various readings we've encountered has been the theory of 'connectivism.' (I know if a red line appears under a word in a spell check where the word IS spelled correctly, that we've now added a new word to the language. We'll see if it's here to stay...) In, 'A Learning Theory for the Digital Age,' December 12, 2004, by George Siemens, preceding the argument that the new theory (and paradigm?) of connectivism, were the learning theories put forth by behaviorists, cognitivists and construtionists. A convincing set of explanations (including chaos theory and even the butterfly effect) and examples then followed that support why we as educators need to now ensure that our students (and ourselves as well) are exposed to situations whereby we can recognize the patterns that exist 'out there'—that knowledge does not reside solely in that internal realm as believed by constructivists and that we need to rely on others' knowledge as well as knowledge that resides in organizations and non-human entities. (But what of 'belief' being a necessary part of knowledge?) I'm willing to go with this for the sake of being open-minded, but given that my job is to teach students to be 'healthy skeptics,' I need to practice what I preach. Yes, it makes sense to recognize patterns to develop understanding (but as I read this, understanding is not as necessary as the gathering of knowledge from as many places as possible.) But let's acknowledge at this point that we do not have machines that have awareness and can believe, at least not yet as we know, and that given we're not machines, if we talk of 'knowledge' many would argue that knowledge does require an ability to believe as part of its core definition. 'Can a Machine Know?' by ISB alumnus, Paul Heath, has more to say on this.

So, yes, working with Web 2.0 technologies as evidenced in the examples from 'hanging out' to 'messing around' does support learning via connectivism. What bothers me is that we're led to believe that we have finally arrived at the 'truth' behind learning. Here's an underlying assumption stated in the article: "Realizing that complete knowledge cannot exist in the mind of one person requires a different approach to creating an overview of the situation." But have we come to 'realize' this? Have we arrived at understanding the human potential to be able to make this bold claim and then act on it? Is it possible that since young people are so caught up with messing around and to some who transcend and find their careers via messing around that we're convinced that this is it? That we've finally arrived at how knowledge is attained by humans? I'd say we need to temper our passions a bit and realize that we're dealing with human science studies and that generalizations made from these are highly tentative at best. Perhaps we are on the verge of a new learning paradigm. Perhaps we are finally able to step outside our existing learning paradigms and gain perspective and understanding about learning, especially given our new understandings in the realm of quantum mechanics and neuroscience, but as with all such paradigm shifts, we have to realize that it's not a matter of abandoning existing theories, it's a matter of transcending and including learning theories. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Let's acknowledge that the hallmark of science is that nothing is 'proven' and that current understandings only lead to newer understandings. There are still some valid approaches to learning that have proven themselves worthy. (And the 'celebration' of 2nd-hand knowledge—knowledge by authority) has been around since Plato!) Not everyone will move from messing around to geeking out. And, we do have to consider that there's still a majority of underprivileged young people who do not have access to the luxuries required to even 'hang out.'

On a less philosophical note, I always liked Bloom's Taxonomy in the past and the new version with the tech skills assigned is especially interesting. (Although I wonder why 'synthesis' has been 'synthesized'/ eliminated!) ('Bloom's Taxonomy Blooms Digitally') I have my students blogging right now about their recent exposure to new concepts we've been discussing in class, and I admit that they're both evaluating & creating as they go along (and synthesizing). I'd like to think that the time they spend blogging encompasses the higher order thinking skills we're after. (It feels that way as I write this blog as well!) So I'm glad to see 'Tech & Learning' values the new taxonomy and validates the hours we spend setting up and writing these as worthwhile thinking (and learning). So, yes I am acknowledging that learning is taking place via a form of 'connectivism'—after all I did say I was open-minded. And, I've always been one to look for something new to bring to learning.

Friday, 19 February 2010

What I hope to get out of the course

I'd like to be able to become more 'fluent' with the 'Web 2.0' technologies out there that both fit 'my style' as well as my needs. And, I am qualifying this somewhat b/c given everything that's 'out there,' I have to be able to manage what works or what I can imagine might work for me in my situation later on. And, I am willing to take risks, because often with the first exposure in this environment, it's just me playing around with something without an audience. The challenge comes in when you finally decide to try whatever it is out in the classroom. Then a disclaimer at the start of class is in order just in case all fails... (Here's one I came across today, however, that's got instant application: tag galaxy. Fun, quick, useful!)

Otherwise, although it sounds cliche, I'd like to be able to use the technologies to keep students motivated to learn. From the readings this week, it's apparent that we have to do something to keep up with how quickly young people nowadays can process multiple bits of information. Actually, we teachers have become pretty good at it, too. But the implications for delivering content is what I'd be keen to look more into. I can tell when students are intrigued by new content—something they've not contemplated or come across before, but we're no longer the only trusted authority for knowledge. So I'd like to be able to manage the other 'authorities.' I'd like to be able to keep my f2f with my students no matter what, but use the technologies judiciously to enhance the interactions. So far I've played around with forums/ blogs/ wikis, etc. but learning how to use which one when is what I'd like to become more comfortable with. How can be build these new uses into the curriculum so that they are mainstays? Blogging, for example. Is this here to stay and if so, what are the implications for teaching writing?

I'd like to have us explore ways to have students be involved with selecting technologies that they feel would support their learning. What about the use of cell phones in the classroom, for example? Since we don't have 1-1 computer use yet, what are other ways to effectively engage kids without computers necessarily—using their prized possessions?

One last thing comes to mind, here—time. The learning curve is great for some of these, I've learned. Time management ideas, like RSS, are what I'd be interested in learning more about. I'm certain hearing from others how they go about managing all the demands will be helpful. And, managing time for students also applies...

What I hope to get out of this course? How to handle the future of learning!