Learning happens


I thoroughly enjoyed the post by @hbailie titled
Stigmergy, deep reading, and John “Pigsarse” Elliott

I find myself also asking what Rheingold and @hbailie have questioned “Can our digital tools make us smarter?” I too, have undertaken so much deep reading over the last month that my head is about to burst with ideas and questions. I too am being helped along tremendously by a number of digital tools and the network of knowledge that I am plugged into.

The concept of “knowledge in networks” is becoming much clearer to me.

Let me digress (my mind doesn’t sit still for long): I have come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that many of the concepts that we are exploring in this M.Ed journey have strong roots in social network perspectives, such as those presented by Kadushin (2012) and Carolan (2014). In his book “Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings” Charles Kadushin reminds us that:

Social networks… have been at the core of human society since we were hunters and gatherers. People were tied together through their relations with one another and their dependence on one another.

(Kadushin 2012)

These observations link in extremely well with the concepts explored by @hbailie in the above post. The ideas of stigmergy and collaborative stigmergy sit well with the concept of people being intimately connected. These thoughts all hint at the need to collaborate and learn together. We are social beings and current shifts in education are reminding us of these connections and how they need prioritising in 21st century pedagogy.

Chatting with @hbailiee at the State Library of Victoria and her subsequent blog post also led me to mull over the writings of Carolan (2014) who presents a social network view of education saying simply that “relationships do matter” and “relational ties between individuals are opportunities for transmission of resources;” (p. 21). This unit of study (Concepts & Practices for a Digital Age) is introducing and reinforcing ideas of connected learning that I have no doubt will transform my professional practice as an educator.

I contrast these meanderings with how dominant views of education isolate learners in the classroom, even attempting to isolate individual actors (in this case students) from one another, even within the classroom setting. Carolan (2014) talks about removing the actor from his/her social context. This is something that I have always struggled with as an educator because the focus of any classroom then is not the students but outcomes. This is stated so eloquently by Connie Yowell in the recording “Connected learning” (DMLResearchHub 2012). Yowell declares that we start with the wrong questions and must move towards a core question that asks “Is the kid engaged?”

So, here we are learning about knowledge networks, stigmergic collaboration, social networks and even connectivism as a learning theory (Siemens 2004). The question that I must answer is; how will my students learn from me next week, the week after…in six months time? Hopefully, slightly (radically) differently.  The trick will be to show these young learners explicitly that they can learn from their classroom networks as well as the extended knowledge networks that they are already connected to, now and in the future.

Let me leave one final quote that hopefully speaks to others within their context of teaching and learning:

Educational research treats learning as an individual outcome, ignoring the messy relational processes through which you form an opinion or an understanding on a topic of interest. Social networks obviously play a central role in the sharing of information and formation of opinions.

These words also spoke to me loudly as I collaboratively built a wiki relating to digital citizenship. The process was collaborative but messy and relational …but that’s another story.

References:

Carolan, B. (2014). Social network analysis and education: theory, methods and applications. California. SAGE Publications

DMLResearchHub. (2012, September 19) Connected Learning: Interest, Peer Culture, Academics. Retrieved April 25, 2014, from http://youtu.be/zFdzz26g-EE

Kadushin, C. (2012). Understanding social networks: Theories, concepts and findings. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved November 30, 2009, from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Bookmark and Share