First assessment task for #INF532 involved creating a digital artefact and writing an exegesis on it.
The Connected 10 Educator Challenge
The Connected 10 Educator Challenge is a learning artefact that has been designed to support teachers in their journey to understand why and how they can become connected educators. It has become a fundamental requirement for modern educators to become 21st-century learners where they take control of their own professional development and how they foster connections with the world. The environment that students and educators are interacting with is constantly evolving, with rapid technological advancements, greater access to information and the exponential growth of social media platforms fuelling it. With the interconnectedness of our world, people need to learn to communicate, collaborate, and problem solves with people worldwide (Saavedra & Opfer, 2012, p. 8) Ball & Forzani also agree that this new dynamic society requires innovative uses of technology, and a much greater emphasis on collaboration and problem solving (2009, p. 497). Haste (2009) further supports this when she describes the 21st-century student as a collaborative tool user who needs a new brand of competencies to thrive within a changing environment.
For many educators it can be a daunting task to begin this journey as a modern educator in a hyperconnected environment. The connector 10 educator challenge is a learning artefact that will allow educators the opportunity to explore a range of different tools and platforms to realise the full potential of being a connected educator. The artefact explores a range of tools such as twitter, Google+, Facebook. Blogs, TeachMeets and much more. The different sections are designed to allow exploration and development of skills. It is important that educators develop these connected networks, and develop their skills in different areas. Tom Whitby’s (2015) view highlights that “the gap between teacher and student will continue to widen if the educator’s’ mindset for learning does not evolve”, further strengthens the idea that educators need to change. The educators themselves are the key to any changes that are required, and this needs to be addressed by focusing on allowing time to explore, to experiment and develop a mindset that is focused on creating a more networked, collaborative, and self-directed educator.
The artefact has been designed on the platform Tackk, which allows for the integration of various forms of digital media, text and other tools, to facilitate the collection of resources and sections that form the Connected 10 Educator Challenge. The contents are designed in a sequential format to allow the educators that interact with it. Tackk platform allows the Connected 10 Educator Challenge to be improved over time by adding more resources and updating it when required, ultimately making it a more dynamic resource. It is designed to be able to be shared on different social media accounts, and can also be copied by Tackk users and repurposed for their own learning environments.
It starts with an overview of the artefact challenge, followed by the ten different sections. These sections are designed around learning and trialling new tools to become a more connected educator. Each individual section includes either video, links to further reading or how-to guides; at the end of each section, there is a challenge to allow for the development of skills, confidence and be reflective of their practice. This artefact is designed to be a manageable challenge and progressive development of abilities. The idea for a Connected learning artefact is a blend of inspiration from the connected educator month, various Twitter guides, and mostly through interactions with educators. Many have admitted that their biggest problems with being a connected educator are; that they are scared, they do not know how to use the tools, and they don’t have the time. The Connected 10 Educator Challenge’s inspiration concept has developed into a practical resource that educators can interact with and allow them to build their confidence in the connected environments. It is designed to allow educators the opportunity to explore these tools, but also make them be reflective of their practice as they go along. It is also designed to be flexible in nature, meaning that is can be done daily, weekly or as a self-paced challenge.
Knowledge building is considered a foundational aspect of learning (Lindsay, 2016a), and the artefact is designed to build the knowledge of an individual, but also contribute to the collective knowledge of a group. The artefact considers that the physical aspect is, in fact, more a virtual aspect, where an educator has the opportunity to explore and learn about a range of new tools. The artefact is designed to engage the individual through interactive videos, various readings, links and engaging with the various challenges. This results in real world learning where the individual is required to utilise the various ideas and respond to them.
The ‘Information Society’ relies on constant access and transmission of information, because information inherently wants to be free (Lindsay, 2016b). The belief that we have entered ‘Information Overload’ is not new, but with the digital era that is evolving it can become amplified. As educators we need to make a choice in the digital era to collectively reimagine learning (Nussbaum-Beach & Hall, 2012) and how we manage this torrent of information. The artefact is designed to facilitate the management of information, streamlining it for the participants into meaningful and manageable chunks.
The main context of the artefact is the exploration of networks and connected learning, and as Howard Rheingold (2011) explains it that “understanding how networks work is one of the most important literacies of the 21st century”. Learning to collaborate with others and connect through technology essential skills in a knowledge-based economy (Lindsay, 2016a). The importance of digital literacies in how people use their social networks in a constant cycle to connect to their friends, family, and others becomes a crucial skill to address. Individuals are connected in more ways than can be imagined and it is shaping their access to networks of information. The learning artefact supports this because it focuses on the creation of contexts where individuals are learning in a networked age, where connecting, growing and navigating networks becomes key driver in a knowledge-based economy (Lindsay, 2016b).
Thomas and Seely Brown (2011) contends that information is a networked resource, where engaging with information becomes a cultural and social process of engaging with the constantly changing world. The theory of Connectivism further explains that learners create new knowledge through more efficient and effective network connections, and it increases the motivation for self-directed learning. George Siemens (2011) explains that the focus on connections requires that learners be exposed to elements that extend beyond the classroom and allow for real-life experience.
As part of the design context, there is a distinct focus on utilising a range of tools, not just one particular medium. The artefact follows what Cook (2012) believes in that there is a movement towards the concept of learning all the time and everywhere, and this concept of a constant state of learning creates a new paradigm for learning (p. 48). This puts us in the position to connect; identify and access information from our networks (McClure, 1994). Furthermore, the artefact is designed to support the concepts of peer-to-peer learning where groups of like-minded individuals working together to develop their knowledge and expertise by implementing new ideas and insights from shared experiences (Lindsay, 2016c).
The artefact is designed to introduce educators to different ways to connect and build their own PLN. At the heart of the artefact is the need to build a Personal Learning Network (PLN). Lieberman & Pointer-Mace (2009) propose that ubiquity of technology and social networking resources provide a means for networked learning to scale up (p. 77), and thus create these PLN’s. As Patnoudes (2012) describes it, “a PLN is a system for lifelong learning” and the need is to realise that PLN’s are inherently designed to be personal experiences. A PLN consists of a network of individuals that all contribute in some form to the development of an individual’s learning and growth. Will Richardson states that ‘everyone’s network will look different’ (Richardson, 2007) and Buchanan (2011) notes, “at the heart of a PLN are people.. from whom you can learn and with whom you, in turn, can share and converse.” (p. 19).
The idea of a PLN mirrors the dynamics of a ‘community of practice’ (COP), where Wenger (Lieberman & Pointer-Mace, 2009, p. 79) described the idea that most people learn in these “communities of practice” through connecting and collaborating. A community of practice is all about the groups of people who share a concern or passion for something they do, and they then learn how to do it better as they interact more with one another (Wenger, 2012). A PLN requires interaction and participation, it grows and changes over time to reflect individual requirements and interests.
For these reasons the artefact is focused on providing an opportunity for the flattening of hierarchies and boundaries as they overrun traditional connections and taxonomy (Pegrum, 2010). This personalised collaboration and informalisation through a network are at the core of learning in the future (Redecker et al, 2011). The artefact is exposing participants to the creation of knowledge through a more social and connected activity.
The Connected 10 Educator Challenge is divided into 10 sections, each with a particular focus on developing skills and knowledge. The goal is creating a participatory and collaborative culture that surpasses the connections they previously had access to formal learning environments such as schools (Kumasi, 2014, p. 9). The research by Igel & Urquhart (2012) supports this aspect that social and constructivist learning theories assert that humans acquire and extend knowledge through interaction with one another (p. 16).
The sections include social media platforms Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIN; but also creation/consumption tools such as Blogging, Podcasts and Youtube. These websites consist of millions of active users worldwide and are focused on sharing information/knowledge. The tool sections have a comprehensive guide and links to assist people in using them, but they do require participants to be active in using them. The daily/weekly challenges are set to make make sure that educators understand that knowledge can be obtained through valuing the diversity of opinion because the connections between many sources can lead to new knowledge (Cook, 2012, p. 48).
The challenges are focused on building the connections through reflective and active exploration. The secret to the success of this will be making sure that relationships are the primary focus and as Steve Wheeler (2012) states, “a PLN is to keep in touch, to maintain a dialogue with their community of practice.” These challenges are intentional and have the purpose of improving learning through connecting. The creation of a PLN allows the members to amplify their intelligence (Siemens, 2008). The need is to understand what it means to be a learner within a connected world to support the students in schools, and this is where the challenges help build this understanding.
The Connected 10 Educator Challenge is a learning artefact designed to lead to further conversations and connections, because in a network age, your influence depends on your degree of connectedness (Pegrum, 2010). The artefact is designed to be personalised, focused on an organic and ever-changing PLN that contributes through sharing knowledge. Ultimately Knowledge networking is about working and sharing common interests with a network of like-minded professionals, and this artefact challenge pushes unconnected educators to explore new paradigms of learning. The design of the artefact offers the flexibility to adjust, adapt and improve the artefact; with space for others to add resources, links and new knowledge to the artefact over time. The importance of being a connected educator in a global knowledge age is fundamental to the success and development of an educator.
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