Connectivism in the Classroom

Some of you participating in the connectivism conference can go into the connectivism Moodle, however some of you haven't been able to participate since the conference is closed.

I have been watching with interest the phenomenal discussion that Jason Hando started about bringing connectivism to the classroom. I'd like to share with you two comments that got me thinking tonight!

Practical ways to facilitate connectivism in a school classroom?
by Jason Hando – Friday, 2 February 2007, 12:19 PM
I am interested in finding out practical ways to adopt connectivism in the classroom [particularly under 18 year old education]. I can imagine that incorporating global projects, where students collaborate with other schools and experts in subject areas, would be one way. Are there other ideas?

Re: Practical ways to facilitate connectivism in a school classroom?
by Peter Clitheroe – Friday, 2 February 2007, 12:28 PM
I wonder whether there is some fundamental work to be done with learners to help them get used to the connected environment and to develop the skills of creative and critical thinking through which that environment can help them learn.
OK, I'm largely working with adult learners but I'm seeing lots of them taking a very tentative look then retreating back into wanting a return to safe comfortable modes of teacher-led instruction.
It's almost a question of “Don't make me think, just give me the knowledge”.


My response:

In my own classroom, I saw that at the beginning of using what some would classify as a more connectivist learning structure (for those who agree that connectivism is a theory) there was a definite initial hurdle to overcome. You do have to shift students to a more exploratory learning format where they seek information and read and use their discernment to determine the facts. (Mine then post via wiki, blog, google video, or youtube or whatever tool we are using at the time.)

Fresh or Delivered!

I guess it is like having to go to a garden and look for the ripe vegetables versus going to a grocery store. It is harder to find the produce in the garden, but it means more and is much better for you when you find it in its natural state.

It takes more class time initially to push students out there to non-teacher-led instruction, however after the initial learning curve of teaching my students to collect and share information, they now “take over” when I give them a project.

A place where the project manager is fired up not fired!

I now give the class an assignment and allow them to elect a “project manager” to create the wiki for a project. The project manager creates the teams and holds groups accountable. I facilitate and make sure everything is working smoothly and keep people searching in the right direction when there is a question. I assess and handle things that get off track. But I saw such a great learning opportunity in managing projects — I already know how to manage and delegate and they do not!

Thus, it is a much more student-centric model of learning — however I am still very necessary as the teacher because I keep the focus and accountability. It also requires my knowledge to create the projects and determine the appropriate next step. (Something that changes from class to class depending on the sources of information and class interest in a particular angle.)

Yes — it is easy to go back to a teacher-led model of instruction and sometimes we do have a more lecture style discussion.

Do teacher-led classrooms REALLY teach more or just “cover” more?

I see how a teacher could also “claim” that they cover more material because they just charge through content without assessing student understanding and effectiveness of the delivery method. But teaching is about not showing how much the teacher knows but about producing students that will eventually surpass the teacher because they become self-learners and passionate about the topic.

It is a much more exciting method of learning.

A classroom where learning is fun

My five year old told me yesterday — “Mom we can't take toys to school because we're not supposed to have too much fun there.”

Let them have fun and let them learn. Let them make connections and let them connect to the things that they are passionate about to instruct them on the topic at hand. Harness the power of student passions to teach.

We have a great gap between the majority of students and their teachers. It is time for such teachers (who harness passions and allow students to connect via a network of other students) to become the norm and not be so extraordinary that the few who do it have a movie made about them.

Teachers, shed your fear and join in the conversation!

It is also time for teachers to become engaged in discussions with theorists and administrators.

The difference between reading about a kiss and kissing!

I look at it this way — I can read all day about how to kiss but a thousand books won't teach me as much as thirty seconds of my first french kiss.

Likewise, theorists can pontificate all day, however, the process of teaching is often best understood and expressed by those who teach. We have a valid perspective!

I must say that I've been nervous about participating at all in such a conference and a lot of the discussion and terminology has required me to do research just to understand a snippet of conversation between the mega-theorists.

However, I am a teacher and it is time for us as teachers to accept what I think should be included in the new definition of professional ethics of teachers: that we contribute to the theoretical discussions in our profession.

How to fight useless workshops!

Have you ever sat in a workshop and whispered to another teacher, “I don't think that consultant has ever been in a classroom?”

Well, it is time for you to give feedback BEFORE such things come to your doorstep. (I am very fortunate in that I love workshops! I have so much to learn!)

And if you don't, you have no right to mumble. You have the opportunity to have a voice. Use it. Comment on blogs of the “experts,” blog, listen, learn, share.

But most of all, join in the conversation. Stop just reading and get out there and communicate your viewpoint. It is important! You are important! Most of us teach because we want to leave a legacy — your legacy grows when you contribute in such ways!

You are the one's out there teaching, for goodness sakes, you do it every day. You do it in your sleep. You know what you're talking about.

Do not let the rhetoric you do not understand deter you from communicating the truth you know. (And if theorists and educators look down on us and belittle us for asking “dumb” questions then they can no longer call themselves a teacher, can they? Good teachers can always teach beginners. Thankfully, many of these people who are kind to those who know less theory and have more practical knowledge like me are participating in this conference!)

Also, don't let the fact that many people afraid of this new teacher empowerment are often blocking the greatest professional development tools created in the history of teaching! Go home and read the blogs of those you respect! Read and give your input!

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9 thoughts on “Connectivism in the Classroom

  1. Hi:

    Have been reading your blog for a few months now and have been thoroughly impressed with some of your projects. We are looking at a ‘flat classroom’ project with an emphasis on families. How were you able to make the connections with teachers from around the world? I really want to have some connections from people around the world to make our project valuable to all involved.

    Thanks,

  2. I have made every connection with other teachers through my blog and through reading the blogs of others. The best thing to do is search for teacher blogs on Technorati or Google Blog Search and look for teachers with like interests and curricular objectives — email them to see if you get a match.

    You may also e-mail me and let me know the vision of the project, I’d be happy to post about it.

    Finally, Jennifer Wagner has created a great tool at Online Projects for Teachers so that you may match up with other classrooms.

    A lot of like minded people also congregate at Tapped In and at the Wow 2 show at Ed Tech Talk on Tuesday nights at 9 pm EST.

    Join in an converse about your interests. Share with me and with others your vision. This process is in its infancy so this is how it is for now. I hope others will contribute their thoughts!

  3. Vicki — this is a great post! First, I like your example of “project management” as an instructional strategy. What a wonderful real-world skill to be teaching your students. I didn’t understand this when I first started teaching and my early attempts at group projects were not always as successful as I intended, but in time I restructured my approach so that it mirrored real-world team structures.

    On another note —

    I’ll restate my point that I made on one of the consturcitvism conference Moodle forum discussions about this issue of including Web 2.0 skills in the classroom — Administrators need to learn these tools, need to use them, and need to model them for their teachers.

    Additionally — administrators need to completely change the way they work with teachers. We need to do away with the traditional faculty meeting and we need to transform all adult interactions (meetings, workshops, etc.) so that they focus on instruction and are models of good instruction (including time for reflection on learning at the end).

    Starting at the top is not the end-all-be-all solution — however, I do believe (quite strongly) that modelling from education leaders, in combination with recognition of the classroom-level early-adopters (let them in to help facilitate the meetings and workshops), could be the “killer combination” for changing teaching practice.

    Take care and keep up the excellent work!
    Stephanie

  4. I love your point and I’m going to use it in a future blog post — you make a lot of sense, Stephanie and I like what you have to say!

    Administrators should model what they expect out of teachers! It is yet another example of “Do as I say not as I do” that is prevalent in teaching – I guess I’ve never thought of it!

  5. 🙂 thanks for not mentioning my typo in the post — I meant “connectivism”… oooops! (That’s what I get for writing while also trying to watch the Super Bowl!)

  6. Actually, I am grading and trying to watch the superbowl — but I can just listen and grade. (Not to mention keeping up with this connectivism conference that I’d love to just sit in all the time. The conversations are starting to get exciting!

  7. Vicki: Thanks for another inspirational post. It’s hard not to get excited about the Web 2.0-enhanced possibilities for teaching and learning from you. Keep blogging because I want to keep reading!!

  8. Vicki,

    A while back, I visited Chris Lehmann’s school in Philadelphia, where students are allowed to use iChat/IM in their classes. The teachers are still looking for a place to push off from concerning this level of connectedness, some place to gain traction. I suspect that when they find that, when students are doing work in their classrooms (and outside) that utilize IM as an integral and value-added part of the assignment, then connectivism will be only a few steps away.

    My 2Cents worth from a Net connected PC at National Airport in DC. Talk about connectivism…

  9. David–
    We use skype for its chat/im capabilities heavily in my classroom and while sometimes the kids use it for inappropriate ways, most of the time, they are communicating on projects and doing work in a much more efficient manner than we could have otherwise.

    I’ve been following your whirlwind conferences — I am stunned at your energy! Thanks for connecting!

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