March 29, 2014

2.5 Thinking in Networks

Technology by itself will not empower learners. Innovative pedagogy is required.” Curtis J. Bonk.

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I like the title of this module – thinking in NETWORKS.  Technology helps us to create these networks, but it is the discourse that happens with the PEOPLE in these networks that empowers us as learners.  To be part of a thinking network, you have to appreciate that knowledge is not fixed, that is debatable.  Look at how previously undisputed facts have changed over the years, and how people who first started to question these undisputed facts were considered heretical, or mentally challenged.  We’ve often heard the best way to learn something well is to teach it to someone else, and connectivism – learning and thinking in networks – allows for this to happen.  Starkey noted that “if teachers are to empower students to graduate from school knowing how to create, critique and share knowledge, then they need to believe that this is an important aim of their teaching.”  This can’t happen if we don’t allow our students to CONNECT with other students in thinking and learning capacities, and if we don’t help them to CONNECT their learning by making relationships across KLAs.  It also won’t happen if teachers don’t recognise that ACCESS to technology is not enough to equip “…the upcoming generation to be active participants in a digitally enhanced society without understanding how to apply theories of learning that are relevant to a digital age into their practice.” (Starkey p. 2)

It is a challenge to find TIME within our teaching program to allow for CONNECTIVITY to happen, when most of our energies appear to be spent developing conceptual understanding, as mandated by our current outcome-based syllabus documents.  I don’t think our current syllabuses (syllabi??) truly reflect the impact that digital technologies can have on student learning, and consequently our teaching.  I think they are syllabuses still present technology as tools within the context of a traditional view of education, rather than seeing their use as a tool that has the potential to redefine education as a whole.  And that is why we still assess student learning with traditional achievement measures, even though they are not adequate enough to really measure learning gains made possible by students when they are connected and constructive learners.  The digital age may be changing learning, but not how we assess it.

I am excited by the DIGITAL AGE LEARNING MATRIX developed in Starkey, and would like to use it as a lens with my teaching colleagues when I meet with them early next term to collaboratively plan our units of work for Term 2, so we can think about how much TIME we are allocating to the HOTS part of the matrix – the critiquing & evaluating; the creating & sharing of knowledge BEYOND THE 4 WALLS OF THE CLASSROOM.  I think it could be a useful tool to help raise our awareness of where much of our teaching energies are spent, and how we are affecting the learning of our students as a result of this.

Connectivism in action?  Citizen Computing… bringing together over 2000 people in a virtual choir: SLEEP by Eric Whitacre