All of the Pieces – The Connected Learner

Will education as we know it change because of technology?

Yes! We all scream with joy and excitement. And then we sit back and take a look around us and we realise that actually, no, it might not.

Our kids are strolling into class with a wide range of devices, our teachers trash the whiteboard markers (and chalk!) and find their boards are now online, and our textbooks are brightly beaming from our screens in pdf format. There are definite changes in our classrooms, I wont argue with that, but is this an education change? Or just a sideways step to the same old routines now being done in HD?

Nick Morrison nails it on the head in this Forbes article It’s Time to Rethink our Use of Technology in Schools. Basically we are coming back again to something like the SAMR model and we are asking ourselves if we are doing enough to take advantage of the technology. He highlights Martin Blows’ e-words and suggests that we aim to empower with technology:

  • Exchange: swapping traditional ways of doing things with ICT
  • Enrich: engaging learners with a richer mix of media
  • Enhance: encouraging deeper learning through the use of ICT
  • Extend: encouraging students to take their learning further
  • Empower: giving students control over their own learning

Not a new idea for any CoETaILers but yet another reminder that this is more than just bringing in the bells and whistles to our learning spaces.

One big way that I am seeing key changes in my classroom is harnessing the networking capabilities of technology. The connectivist approach to learning lies in the fact that “knowledge is distributed across an information network and can be stored in a variety of digital formats.” (Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past?) If I was to pinpoint one big change that I have noticed in my short teaching career I think that it would come back to this idea of connectivism. Whether we are aiming to redefine learning (SAMR) or empower students (Blows) we are certainly trying to take advantage of the learning opportunities that are online and give students personalised learning experiences.

Connectivism and lifelong learners

Massive Open Online Courses have given access to high quality (sometimes) education – for free. This really is a big deal. There is a growing number of people that are now asking where face to face teaching fits in this MOOC world? We will continue to argue (and win) that personal contact is essential, especially in development stages. But what about post secondary? How is the MOOC changing the education landscape?

My only MOOC success story was How to Learn Math by Jo Boaler (Stanford). It was successful firstly because I completed it (there have been dozens that I haven’t!) but it was also successful as it created a wonderful opportunity to engage in a discussion about maths education that I was desperate to have but couldn’t find people to have it with.

MOOCs are also creeping into higher education and pushing institutions to make sure that their face to face set up is better. The movie Ivory Tower is a shocking reminder (or realisation) about the state of higher ed in the US and they highlight some of the un-schooling movements that are becoming popular among the silicon valley types.

COETAIL is not a MOOC but it is online and driven by the connectivist approach to learning. I do feel that learning like this is more engaging but it also requires more self motivation and that is sometimes a new way of learning. In schools we can sometimes spoon feed too much but the fact that all of our students will someday be learning via a connectivist approach I would argue that we need to prepare them for that world!

At Graded School we are looking at Blended Learning and there is a cohort of teachers trying to implement blended learning in their classes. It’s a big switch for everyone and I’ve noticed that my students resist the idea that they need to seek out a lot of the information for themselves. Mark Engstrom and I actually wrote about it here. I hope to post more about my blended learning adventures!

One comment to “All of the Pieces – The Connected Learner”
One comment to “All of the Pieces – The Connected Learner”
  1. I’ve never seen the 4 Es and I like the way that they challenge our thinking when we’ve gotten a bit passé with the SAMR definitions. I especially like the “extend” and “empower”. We all talk about differentiation and challenging gifted learners, but haven’t seen a lot of talk about integrating technology to do that.

    Innovate 2015 looks like a very interesting conference. How great that you will be a part of the leadership! Let us know how the workshop does. It’s great to see what South America is doing!

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