Thursday, January 20, 2011

Familiar ground

Put someone in a stressful work environment and they will retreat to the things they know well and things which worked in the past. We know student teachers often turn to "stand and deliver" teaching methods after a few weeks of student teaching because they are overwhelmed, anxious, becoming exhausted etc. If Vygotsky were observing them he would likely say they were beyond their zone of proximal development. Others might say they returned to their security blanket. I'll call it... familiar ground.

I only mention the V-man because I have been beyond my zone of proximal development (ZPD) in CCK11 so far. ZPD is a fancy way of describing the area between being too comfortable (and bored) and being pushed too far (and therefore too stressed to learn). Inside the zone between bored and stressed is the edge of chaos (or educhaos as my friend Lisa Chamberlin calls it) where we learn. I believe in this because I have a) experienced, b) seen it, and c) utilized this knowledge to adjust the learning environment for bored/stressed students.

Trying to understand connectivism sent me outside my ZPD and down the rabbit hole. To climb back out I returned to familiar ground, searching for resources. Work and life continually have me looking for information, research, people, etc. who can help me. I see now that I make connections to get answers and further my understandings. And I can only do this inside my ZPD.

Today's searching brought me to the blog role for CCK11 where I selected about 10 new blogs to follow. My choices included people new to blogging and connectivism, those who seem to 'get it', people outside the USA and people in fields related to but different from my higher education role. Again, these are connections, or potential connections, to grow my understanding.

I also returned to two videos which make me laugh and make me think -- two of my favorite things!! Both are TED talks by Sir Ken Robinson. With my newfound interest in connectivism I heard his messages just a little differently this time. I made different connections with his themes. Schools kill creativity video --> The follow-up Bring on the Learning Revolution video

My ignorance and confusion about connectivism are still in abundance but returning to familiar ground has allowed me to learn a little, just a little, more today.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Down the rabbit hole... CCK11 Day 3

#CCK11 - Day 3

Lewis Carroll's Alice and I seem to be having a shared experience. What was up is down, what was in is out... Or as she would say, "Curiouser and curiouser..." Connectivism and my ignorant brain are not yet... wellllll... connecting! Having joined today's Elluminate live session and hearing Stephen and George both explaining this theory using various metaphors was appreciated, but so far it didn't help.

What did help a little was their instruction to 'expect to be confused.' Hurrah! Check that off the list! I have confusion to spare. The back channel discussion showed I am not the only one checking off 'expect to be confused' from the to-do list.

At times I get the idea of connectedness between people growing the knowledge. Then I try to put technology as a connector not as a conduit and I falter again. Where I am really struggling though is picturing this as a learning theory which guides our intent as teachers planning lessons and courses.

Connecting learners is not new to me. In fact it is a signpost in every course I teach. How to give students the openness to go forth and connect and still learn what some accrediting body says my course is supposed to teach is where I join Alice in her fall down the rabbit hole. Picturing the non-structure of the current MOOC experience as a way to teach my course objectives... well I can't picture it. Not in 2-D, 3-D, jigsaw...

Perhaps part of the connectivist philosophy is that traditional courses, educational institutions etc. have failed so poorly (and they really have and I am part of this system) that we junk the whole thing and just connect to whatever we want to learn, from whomever we want to learn it? Is my confusion coming from trying to overlay connectivism on the existing structure?

Oh my! Which way did that white rabbit go? Alice... Oh Alice... wait up, I would like to connect with you!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thinking in Twitter bytes and connectivism

Lately I have been finding myself thinking in Twitter bytes (bites?). My thoughts are coming composed in +/- 140 characters. Sometimes this concerns me, is this an aging brain faltering into fractured thoughts?

This morning I awoke with a CCK11 based realization that this is a connection between myself and the tools I use (Facebook for personal uses and Twitter for professional purposes). On both tools I must edit myself into small bites of information or insight. The part of the connectivism theory where I was stuck yesterday was the concept of learning as connections with technology, and within technology. The AM epiphany was the connection between myself and the tools. Aha this is an example of a connection with technology.

But is it?

Is it really a connection between myself and the tech, or myself and the creators of the Twitter interface? People created Twitter. People set the program to reject messages of <140 characters. On Twitter I am not connecting with the tool, I am using the tool to connect (or try to connect) with other people.

So which is it... my morning Aha! was that the Twitter bytes being composed in my head were a connection with technology but I keep coming back to people. People created the software being used, people use the software to connect with each other. My connectivism ignorance is still the idea of connections with technology, and technology connecting with itself.

Hmmm More coffee please!

Monday, January 17, 2011

New journey... On the road to connectivism

My first foray into open education begins with Connectivism and Constructing Knowledge taught by world-class thinkers and leaders in education, George Siemens and Stephen Downes. Today's post is my first step on this 12 week journey.

My first steps are to begin to understand the learning theory of connectivism and how it differs from previous learning theories. What is learning? I would have said prior to today's readings and videos... Learning is individuals developing connections with information or skills within themselves. This is a people-oriented view of learning. Connectivism goes beyond people as individuals.

Siemens (2005) mentions "learning that is stored and manipulated by technology." I am still grappling with this idea. I understand storage of information using technology. And I have heard some machines can learn (although I swear no device I have ever owned learned anything except how to frustrate me... hmmm maybe they were learning?!) Learning manipulated by technology is where I am stuck for now. (I can see that blog postings during the course will be showcasing my transparent ignorance more heavily than usual!)

He goes on to indicate that previous learning theories are inadequate in a digital age because, "They also fail to describe how learning happens within organizations." Is this learning inside the databases, or among the people in the organization? How to define organizations is a key point I will continue to mull!

I have also been reading Stephen Downes writings. I am working at absorbing them now. A post on those will follow

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age.