Blast Off!

As a learner, I think of myself connected in the way that I learn and acquire information.  If I want to find something out, I google it, or I might post the question online or read a response to a similar question.  What is lacking in my pipeline of communication is the two-way flow.  I take and enjoy the benefits of accessing what I need but I do not contribute to enhance any kind of PLN.

In the article, Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age, Siemens mentions that “Nodes that successfully acquire greater profile will be more successful at acquiring additional connections.”  I think this statement has value especially in this course and I will put it to the test over the coming months by sharing, linking and contributing more.

As a student of connectivism, it starts with me; my interests, desire for connecting, and learning from who I want and where I want begins with my ability to acquire, search, synthesize and evaluate.  The pipe really is more important than the content within.  As a networked teacher I see the connections slowly growing and when I watched the video about the networked teacher/connected student I put myself in the role as a teacher and realized how incredibly powerful my students world is right now.  I do still ask myself a few questions in reflecting upon this learning theory:

  • How do we encourage our students to flourish in this world of networks when our organizations are built on outdated theories?
  • As a networked teacher, how do I start encouraging my students to network appropriately?
  • What is my role as their teacher in a world where knowledge and learning is at their fingertips without me standing in front of them?

In my class we are inquiring into how the solar system affects Earth.  This topic opens up a wide variety of possibilities for using technology but also modeling to students how to find information, build research skills and create some multi-media for their summative assessment.  An example of connectivism happened in front of my eyes without me realizing what it was.  After parent-teacher interviews last week I was having a conversation with one of my students’ mothers who is from Korea ( this will be important later).  Her son, a natural inquirer, often comes to school with information that he has learned on his own.  He is building connections in his own 9 year old way!  I mentioned to her that I wanted to connect the students with experts in the field (I had already mentioned this to the students earlier that morning).  I had some of my own ideas like a field trip to the Science Museum, skyping with an astronaut (but HOW?) etc…

My student and his mother, that evening, made some phone calls, sent some emails and came to school the next day with the contact of someone in the field of Space Research in Korea!  Korea Aerospace Research Institute has agreed to Skype in with our class and share some information and field questions from the students.  Without knowing what to call it, I realize how he is networking, learning on his own without me and contributing to content in class that we might call “knowledge”.   He realizes that he doesn’t need to learn and acquire information from just me (Thank goodness!). I thought it was pretty cool.

As I grow in a PLN, learn from others, reflect and share on the process and build skills to encourage my students on the same journey, how is this going to impact them in the future?  What will their learning look like in 5 years? I hope due to the small invested time I have put into “messing around”, their journey they will be further along in acquiring skills to be the 21C learners that can effect change in the world.

Has anyone else taught connected students that have gone out on their own to contribute to the learning in the classroom? 

5 thoughts on “Blast Off!

  • Hi Tim!

    Those questions you are asking above are very interesting and also for me not easy to answer (yet).

    – How do we encourage our students to flourish in this world of networks when our organizations are built on outdated theories?

    You are right – a lot of rules and policies like “No Facebook/Twitter” are obstacles for us teachers to be a role model. I’m working in Primary and I convinced that we can do small steps as preparation to become a networker like writing for a class blog, commenting on a post, reading blogs which are interesting and meaningful for them, working with a class wikipedia (there are so many interest-driven wikis, using Skype go get connected f.e. to experts, and even simpler but not less important modeling them reading strategies off- and online, etc. etc.. I;m sure there is even more.

    – As a networked teacher, how do I start encouraging my students to network appropriately?

    You mean, if there are no limits, right? This “appropriately” makes it very difficult for me. Where to start with the network, right? I don’t know yet, Tim, but it’s a very, very interesting question. I’m curious as well …

    – What is my role as their teacher in a world where knowledge and learning is at their fingertips without me standing in front of them?

    Okay, I can (so far) only answer from a perspective of a Primary School Teacher.
    My role is to be a role model, to show them that I’m a learner, a life-long learner as well. Students need to have certain searching skills to find the informations. My goal is to listen to them, to recognize them and their passions. I want to give them an environment to inquire into something which is meaningful to them. I want to give them the chance to collaborate, to solve problems, to understand concepts, to take actions and to share their thinking with the world.

    Let’s find the answers together … 😉

  • Thank you for this post Tim! I think you have made some great points and have given us a great connection and questions to think about.
    I was trying to find out more about Connectivism on the Internet and after watching a couple of videos by George Siemens and read a few additional articles, hearing how a connection ‘occurred’ in your own classroom, made perfect sense. As I had mentioned in one of my previous posts, as educators we MUST find ways to guide students create their own connections to all the different resources out on the net. Modeling the ‘how-to’ is also a must. And that is exactly what you had done-had you not mentioned Skype as an option to that parent/student, you probably would have missed out on this great opportunity! One of the pages that I visited was the wiki page- this is how it describes Conncetivism: “One aspect of connectivism is its central metaphor of a network with nodes and connections.[2] In this metaphor, a node is anything that can be connected to another node such as an organisation, information, data, feelings and images. Connectivism sees learning as the process of creating connections and elaborating a network.
    The network metaphor allows a notion of “know-where” (the understanding of where to find the knowledge when it is needed) to supplement to the ones of “know-how” and “know-what” that make the cornerstones of many theories of learning.”
    To answer one of your questions- one of the many roles that you have as a 21stC educator is to model the ‘Know-how” and ‘Know- Where”.Providing that skill would bring that ‘world of learning’ as you call it, and you will not have to stand in front of your students anymore!

  • Hi Tim,

    As the others (and Jeff) have stated, this is a thought-provoking post. Selfishly, I have a few questions. I noticed from your “About Me” page that you are in a 1:1 Grade 3 classroom with “iPads, kindles, netbooks and Mac laptops”. First, that sounds amazing! But second, more than a few people have interpreted your first question to mean that your classroom is limited by filters or policies which restrict your students’ access to the web. So, I want to know:

    1. Does your school have a filter? What is its intention and how successful is it in meeting that purpose?

    2. Does your school have educational technology policies which limit your students’ access to the networked communities you are pondering?

    3. As someone who is not living under COPPA but is likely impacted by it as many digital tools service terms limit their use to users 13 and up, do you feel limited by these structures in your classroom?

    Actually, as I am typing this comment, my next blog post is forming in my head. I think I am going to take some version of these questions and turn them into a survey. I think you are an excellent example of someone who seemingly has it all in terms of technology but is still feeling limited by other factors. In the States, it was always a lack of access to technology that was limiting people, to the point where some librarians almost wished it was outdated policies and overzealous, ineffective filters that were the problem (Which is not to say that those weren’t a problem as well!!!).

    Thanks for helping me think,

    • Hi Katy,
      Thanks for the response!
      To answer your questions:

      1. I am very lucky to teach in a school rich with technology. That is not a problem at all. No filters except the problems of things being blocked in China and requiring VPN’s to route around the firewalls to access youtube, google, facebook etc…

      You’re right though, a lot of issues back “home” are teachers not having the funding or access to the technology…can become a hinderance but there are ways around it and we just need to get more creative I guess.

      2. My school has great policies related to technology and we are very much encouraged to explore and take risks. My reflections above are just thoughts on how do I, how do we, how does a networked teacher encourage kids to network appropriately. I have a class blog, we use twitter a bit, etc… I just sometimes wish I was doing more and the kids saw technology as a more seamless tool in the classroom rather than a “ok kids let’s get out our laptops now”. I want them to see the tech tool as interchangeable as a pen and paper or an encyclopedia, etc.. we’re getting there it just takes time I guess and is more of a slow journey than a fast race.

      Your research would be interesting!

      I think a lot depends on your administration and how supportive they are of what you want to do. We are developing policies about parental permission for posting online, etc..
      But ultimately, we just keep doing what we’re doing and bring the world into our classroom in whatever way we can.

      Thanks for the comment.

      • Hi Tim,

        Thanks for your reply to my comment. It has given me a bunch to think about, and it sounds like our schools are in similar places in a lot of ways. Our students probably have a little less access to technology than yours right now, but we are also in “developing policies and procedures” land right now.

        In the end, I like best how you said we are bringing “the world into our classroom in whatever way we can”. So true. Whether it’s through books or Skype, it’s all about getting these students (and ourselves) to see past the end of our own noses.

        I jumped off of our exchange and wrote my post to start my research. Fingers crossed- we’ll see where it goes.

        Have a great day,

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