Today’s learners seek meaning, as they are bombarded with media and content. We the teachers, who are similarly overwhelmed, are meant to move students from what they need to know for the test, to what they need to know for their lives. (Wesch, 2010)
The image of teachers as learners is slowly impacting education. The solution is in taking control of one’s environment as a learner. Information use is personal, it’s social, it’s ubiquitous and it’s constantly changing. The learning hierarchy is flattening.
There is hope in change, say Thomas and Brown (2011). The required shift in thinking however, is disruptive. Disruptive to current thinking, disruptive to the information network as it exists, and as the network deniers would have it exist.
Our technological tree is outgrowing our cultural roots (Floridi, 2009) Understanding the conceptual and cultural roots is vital to the global and connected information society, and this means understanding that new information and learning environments require transforming the old way of doing things. Being connected is the new black.
This is the new reality for schools. Thomas and Brown show us the new arc of learning, with peer-to-peer collaborative learning permeating online and classroom environments. New media have afforded opportunities for connection that didn’t exist previously. It has become a question of where we pay attention.
Howard Rheingold (2010, 2012) emphasises the value of understanding where we pay attention, how networks work, and what the opportunities are for consumers who are now creators in online spaces. We form new associations with ease, as the networks and connections have allowed us to do, and we can all see the capability of the network to afford social interaction.
We are shifting from an analogue, isolated, generic, physically bounded set of spaces to one which is much more personal and open, laden with creative possibility, (Couros, 2010) digital and mobile are asking learners and teachers to focus on the bigger questions. (Parker 2010, Mitra 2013) What does learning actually look like? What are the features of the new ecosystem? Is knowing anything obsolete, or do you just have to know where to look?
The challenge for educators is that standards of school-based literacy have not really changed. Whenever policy makers feel challenged, we go “back to basics”. We get stuck in particular modes of activity, in the content, in the curriculum but we need to broaden our concept of school-based literacy. That doesn’t mean, “insert technology here”, the mistake that schools often make in making the attempt to rethink learning in the connected environment.
The pedagogy for a different concept of learning is one that lets go of teachers telling, of having all the answers, according to Prensky. (2010) Students must become partners in learning, critical thinkers in the new ecosystem, which is based on challenge and openness. The teacher is a guide, a learning designer and goal setter, and technology is the enabler.
But what about the teacher? asks Gregor Kennedy. Are we designing this very important part of education out of the design of the learning experience?
Educators then, living life in perpetual prototyping (beta, says Jarche, 2011) no longer have the right go back to basics. It’s all changed and there is now no longer a hierarchy in learning. Where we are now demands knowledge management; seeking out the information we need, sensing what is good for our students, then sharing our synthesis of that knowledge, personalizing it. This changes us. Learning changes us. All connection changes us (Kastelle, 2013) We need an information vegetable rich diet, not a junk food one (Pariser, 2013)) To do this, to enrich the lives of our students, we must manage the information. Admit firstly that it’s not possible to keep up!
Building personal learning networks, managing the flow of information through aggregation feeds, relying on the sharing of others, becoming a filter for the info overwhelm is the task for connected educators. People will embrace clarity and we must choose our “digital clothing” (Rosenbaum, 2011) carefully. We engage in, and pay attention to, what we value. Schools have a social responsibility to grow communities of practice, and for the dominant culture to be network literacy.
Schools should support and encourage the establishment of their teachers’ Personal Learning Networks as “mirrors of networked knowledge” (Pegrum 2010)), encouraging teachers to turn the lens both inwards and outwards (Mundkur & Ellickson 2012) Reflection is important in the learning process. In considering the future of networked learning, rich technology integration brings multiple issues to the fore. Deliberate design (an oxymoron?) requires us to imagine the future and then plan for it.
Design is important because it is transformative. If we design online environments for future learning, things will inevitably change. New paradigms such as the flipped classroom, blended learning taking place in online learning environments, all require good connections in learning. All these connections are relational, whether within the classroom walls or across the world. The concept of repurposing time at school is, as Jonson (2012) illustrates, we understand and use the strong connection that exists between online and offline working, while guiding students to become more connected and self-efficacious in their learning,
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