Becoming a Connected Educator

Through modern technology we live in an information rich and connected world, where we have constant and immediate access to information sources, people and their knowledge. Teaching and learning happen in this connected world and should be augmented by this connected information environment.

The connected educator is firstly a connected learner, who brings what she (or he) learns into the classroom (Nussbaum-Beach & Hall, 2012, p.18):

  • She actively manages and directs her personalised learning journey, reflectively planning formal and informal learning experiences to advance her professional and personal interests.
  • She leverages the affordances of technology to manage the flow of interactions with people and information sources through careful curation.
  • She utilises the personal, social and participatory nature of new media formats and tools) to connect and with learning communities, to learn from and with (Lindsay, 2016, p.11). Lucier views this as a continuum of Seven degrees of connectedness on which a learner progresses as a personal learning network (PLN) is actively cultivated and nurtured. Rheingold and Weeks (2012, p.120) similarly refer to Mayfield’s 11 steps of the Power Law of Participation.
  • She deliberately manages and develops her online presence, identity and footprint.

The connected educator understands that education is about learning – not teaching, and that while learning can be linear and solitary, it is also social and collaborative – especially in the connected world. She models and practices connected, lifelong learning. The connected educator crafts authentic learning experiences by utilising her network to open the walls of her classroom, by sharing relevant learning resources, and by facilitating connection-making (Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011, p.61-62). By demonstrating the importance of being a connected learner she encourages her students to develop their own PLNs. She encourages connected learning to happen inside and outside the classroom, through participation and interactions: by facilitating user-generated content, peer-critique, collective aggregation and community formation by her students (Conole, 2010, pp. 50-51.)

She understands that good digital citizenship requires responsible, active participation (Ohler, 2010, p.34). She assists students in developing the literacies and competencies they need for full participation in these new environments.

This educator is developing as a connected learner and hopefully as a connected educator. There are tentative attempts at cooperation, which will hopefully lead to bold collaboration. I have moved beyond lurking and have started to actively engage and contribute, but more importantly: I have become convinced that by participating, I will develop further on the path to being an exemplary connected educator from and with whom my colleagues and students will learn.

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References

Conole, G. (2013). Designing for learning in an open world. New York, NY: Springer New York.

Lindsay, J. (2016). The global educator: Leveraging technology for collaborative learning & teaching. International Society of Technology in Education.

Lucier, R. (2012, June 5). Seven degrees of connectedness [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://thecleversheep.blogspot.ch/2012/06/seven-degrees-of-connectedness.html

Mayfield, R. (2006, April 27). Power law of participation [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://ross.typepad.com/blog/2006/04/power_law_of_pa.html

Nussbaum-Beach, S. (2012, January 13). Why be a connected educator? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0kZU8hTWIE

Nussbaum-Beach, S., & Hall, L. R. (2012). The connected educator: Learning and leading in a digital age. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Ohler, J. B. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press.

Rheingold, H., & Weeks, A. (2014). Net smart: How to thrive online. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Richardson, W., & Mancabelli, R. (2011). Personal learning networks: Using the power of connections to transform education. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Tolisano, S. (2012, June 7). Seven degrees of connectedness (The infographic) [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://langwitches.org/blog/2012/06/07/seven-degrees-of-connectedness/

 

Adapting to “a new culture of learning”

Thomas and Brown rightly states that 20th century teacher-centred and classroom-based learning environments do not adequately facilitate 21st century learning.

In the relative stability of the 20th century, education slowly and orderly adapted to changes in society and information was relatively scarce. This has been replaced by an environment characterised by constant connectivity to an expanding networked infrastructure; seamless access to ubiquitous information and new social and participatory media formats. These profound changes were brought about by converging developments in information and communication technologies (ICTs). An information society, characterised by accelerated continual change evolved. In the information society learning is no longer only formal, static and discrete, but also informal, continuous and fluid – not bound to teaching or classroom.

The fundamental shifts necessary for the world of education to adapt to the needs of the information society (and stay relevant) includes a change from teaching-based (passive) education to learning-based education:

  • with the emphasis no longer on teaching about the world, but learning through interacting with the world;
  • learning no longer viewed as an individual activity, but as social – happening in collectives, or communities of shared interest, and through peer-to-peer collaboration;
  • education does not react to change, but embraces change;
  • students do not prove successful information transfer, but ask questions and embrace what they do not know;
  • students do not learn from teachers (in classrooms only), but teachers act as mentors while students learn from the network of information sources that is the information society.

Thomas and Brown proposes “a new culture of learning” that cultivates learning in the 21st century information society. This type of learning requires unlimited access to a network of resources, as well as a structured environment that allows for unlimited agency to question, build and experiment within the boundaries of this environment (Thomas and Brown, 2011, p.19). Much like in the case of “games” and their “rules”, passion and imagination are harnessed to work within the constraints posed by the boundaries of the learning environments. They see play, questioning and the cultivation of imagination as the bedrocks of their “new culture of learning” (p.20), rather than the traditional educational metrics of efficiency, outcomes and answers (p. 118).

Thomas and Brown are not alone in their fundamental understanding of the shifts that are needed in education, see for example this blog post and this essay about the Connected learning movement, which proposes a different, but fundamentally related model for the reformation of education.

How does Thomas and Brown’s new culture of learning reflect my own experiences as an educator and learner in the past two or three years?

As an adult learner, my experience of 21st century learning is similar to this “new culture of learning”. I am convinced that learning has broken through the walls of formal, classroom education for ever. As learners, we are in control of our own self-directed learning. Learning is social and active and ongoing. Learning does not only happen out of textbooks or from a teacher. Experts and specialists as well as communities of interests, peers, social communities and various new forms of information production are all valuable sources of information and catalysts for learning.

As an educator in a school, I fully agree that learning should be learner-directed and –centred and not be bound to content, classroom and teacher. I am also convinced that younger learners need carefully constructed environments in which to learn. I am unsure of how they can safely and responsibly benefit from external collectives and communities of interest. I believe our students need much guidance in developing digital and information literacies and in traversing the information networks.

I have seen significant movement towards collaboration and peer-based learning in our school, but the general experience is still very different from “a new culture of learning”subject-based and result-oriented teaching is still very prevalent as we are primarily focused on preparing students to produce grades that will ensure entry into tertiary educational institutions.

The transformation of traditional education has begun, much remains to be done.

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References

TEDX Talks. (2012, September 12). A new culture of learning, Douglas Thomas at TEDxUFM [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/lM80GXlyX0U

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

New models of information production – characteristics and challenges

The Internet can be viewed as an open, digital network of globally connected users and computerised devices that provides a dynamic platform for the creation, storage, dissemination and consumption of information and knowledge.

The digital nature of the internet allows for the creation, storage and dissemination of content (irrespective of format – text, sound, image, hyperlinks) through any of the networked computers that make up the internet. The digital nature makes it easy to be replicated, manipulated, changed, stored and transmitted with accuracy and speed. Digital representation of data and information is freed from temporal and spatial constraints, enabling new models of information production that are interactive, easily and immediately accessed, shared and distributed.

The open nature of the internet supports the creation of new models of information production in a number of ways: The open architecture provides global penetration and access across physical and national boundaries. The fact that the internet is open and decentralised – not hierarchical – allows it to evolve and grow in creative, innovative and unrestricted ways. The open accessibility of the internet – not controlled or owned – encourages free and open expression and participation; gives a voice, encourages civic participation, connects and empowers. See Table 1 for a more detailed presentation, by West (2016), of internet openness.

Elements of Internet Openness (according to West, 2016)

It is the digital and open characteristics of the internet that allowed the development of the World Wide Web (WWW) through hyperlinks and hypertext. The creation – and open sharing – of the WWW provided the stepping stone needed for the development of a plethora of (Web 2.0) tools and applications, which in turn gave rise to open, social and participatory media that enabled the development of new models of information production (Conole, 2013, pp. 50-51).

De Saulles (2012, p. 13) identifies the mass adoption of computing devices for professional and personal applications, and the rise of the internet as distribution platform, as the main reasons for the increased rate that information is being created and consumed, as well as for the rise of new models of information production. He states that although new evolutionary models (such as blogs and podcasts) are similar to traditional formats (such as newspapers and radio broadcasts), they make use of the characteristics of the internet to be more social, participatory and accessible on demand. Revolutionary models – such as search engines (e.g. Google) and social media platforms (e.g. Facebook) – are revolutionary and only possible because of the internet’s unique characteristics. See his slideshow below for his view in more detail:

 

The challenges (to educators, information professionals and other users) associated with the new models of information presentation are archetypal of the changed information environments, as identified by Bawden and Robinson (2009, pp.182-186): Information is no longer scarce, but in oversupply; the “paradox of choice” is aggravated by the increasing diversity of information (in terms of format, complexity and varying perspectives). The open, social and participatory nature of Web 2.0 tools – and new models of information production – bring with it issues concerning quality control (no editorial or peer-reviewed processes); loss of identity and authority, subjectivity, de-contextualised information and impermanence of information (Bawden and Robinson, 2009, p.186).

The new models of information productions enable creative ways to produce and share information, but are changing our information behaviour. As educators and information professionals we need to understand this behaviour better, if we are going to effectively employ these models in facilitating and supporting 21st century learning.

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REFERENCES:

Bawden, D., & Robinson, L. (2009). The dark side of information: Overload, anxiety and other paradoxes and pathologies. The Journal of Information Science, 35(2), 180-191. https://doi.org/10.1177/0165551508095781

Conole, G. (2013). Designing for learning in an open world. New York, NY: Springer New York.

De Saulles, M. (2012). New models of information production. In Information 2.0: New models of information production, distribution and consumption (pp. 13-35). Retrieved from https://www.csu.edu.au/division/library/ereserve/pdf/desaulles-m.pdf

West, J. (2016, May). Global Commission on Internet Governance Paper Series: Vol. 35. A framework for understanding internet openness. Retrieved from https://www.cigionline.org/publications/framework-understanding-internet-openness

 

The digital age and possibilities for re-imagining our educational system

The convergence of computing, information and communication technologies into one device, affordable and usable by most, has resulted in the development of a transformed information-rich world. With these mobile devices, we became nodes points in a global information ecosystem, socially connected in interactive knowledge environments that transcend the restrictions of our physical world.

Almost every aspect of our personal, professional and societal lives has been transformed by the tools and products of this digital age. Two important examples should be emphasised:

• New participatory media formats use web-based technologies to enable recipients of information messages to be active participants in knowledge creation. Interactive platforms allow experts and voxpop voices to join, in creating, discussing and distributing user-generated information products in many formats.

• Cloud computing makes improved productivity and knowledge building possible through immediate communication channels and tools for collaboration. These improved data storage facilities make digitisation of our collective societal knowledge and cultural heritage possible in online digital repositories.

The new digital age is having a significant impact on the learning environment: on when, where and how we learn. Multi-formatted online resources and participatory media enables self-directed, self-paced, individualised, personal and differentiated authentic learning. The role of teachers is changing from deliverers of content to creators of context (Thomas, 2012). The classroom, where learning was traditionally initiated by teachers, has expanded beyond walls, lectures and textbooks and can become truly learner-centred. Connected learning provides an existing model that makes use of the products of the digital age to re-imagine our traditional education system.

While some educators suggests that the students of today are intuitive and “native” users of new media formats and tools, we need to better understand the competencies and proficiencies that are required of learners to be literate in this digital age.

What now is the role of school libraries in this digital age? Libraries should support learning where and when it takes place. This means a dynamic, physical learning space and an equally well-designed virtual space, where librarians meet the information needs of teachers and students through curation of digital resources and tools and help students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. How we will get there… THIS is the challenge that I hope to meet through my studies!


A VERY critical reflection on what I have learnt this far:

I am fascinated by the reading provided for Module 1. While the content was not new, I was challenged by so many of the authors to imagine how this digital world can transform our educational institutions and our thinking about learning. I am inspired, but that is the positive side…

It took far too long to read and grasp the required reading. I hope that as I become more familiar with the concepts and academic writing again, that I will be more efficient.

I have not participating in the online discussions yet, because the reading and setting up of the blog took too much time (I will do so this week). I believe as I find my voice I will be bolder, less worried about seeming ignorant and more comfortable with the tools we have been introduced to. I am very excited and in the right place, but still getting up to speed.

REFERENCES:

Thomas, D. (2012, September 12). A new culture of learning [Video file]. Retrieved from
‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM80GXlyX0U’

Welcome to “Gretha Reflecting”!

Thank you for joining my exploration of the new information world and its impact on how we learn.

I look forward to your comments and contributions, which will help shape my understanding.

The new information environments and ecosystems that are developing and morphing as a result of the convergence of advances in the fields of information technology and communication impacts all aspects of our lives, not the least of these “learning”. Participative new media formats and tools, possibilities to communicate and collaborate, to connect, has already changed the landscape of learning, how we construct knowledge, how and where we teach and learn.

On an academic level I am eager to develop a theoretical understanding of the principles and concepts of this new information world and the opportunities and challenges posed by connected learning. On a practical level I am apprehensive, but ready, to employ a host of digital tools and platforms to learn, reflect and participate in this real connected learning experience with you.

I look forward to connecting with you, learning from and with you on this journey.