Stephen Downes, connectivism and second life



I am in overload — I listened to Stephen Downes today. He used analogies to teach, making me think that networks are modeled in everything from river tributaries to the human mind to the networks built over the Internet. Some connections are explainable and logical, but many are the product of chaos theory at work.

He makes a lot of sense and I think that curriculum directors everywhere should listen to the audio file of his presentation today and look at his Powerpoints.

Then, I spent time in Second Life, learning and thinking (and taking pictures (see them to the right.) I made connections with many new teachers who are now my “friends” in second life. I learned so much. (The best tour guide is Beth Ritter-Guth — she is helpful and outstanding – a perfect person to take a group in. If you have a group going in soon, please mention it to me so I can share it with those who want to try it out!)

I really want us to figure out a way to have teacher / student areas away from the teen and the adult areas. Not sure how that could happen, but it is needed. I have some ideas as do many others.

I can't help but think that I touched the train hanging off the future bride of education. (Or something like her.)

Bottom line is that learning in second life is truly first person learning but when dealing with students it is sans one very important thing — stereotypes. (There is no such thing as second person learning. )

So perhaps second life isn't a second life at all but a real life. Just a new way of living it.

I am so overwhelmed that as I have perused my youtube and build the channels I subscribe to over there, I came across this video. The beginning of this video is from an American perspective and I tend to not like the fear aspect of it. (We should all reform education because its the right thing to do, not necessarily because we're fearful.)

However, once you get into the video, the points made in this video are throughout the entire connectivism conference. Video is a powerful tool!

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9 thoughts on “Stephen Downes, connectivism and second life

  1. Hi Vicki, this is iAlja Writer from Second Life. It was nice meeting you and I completely agree with what you’ve written in your post! So, hope to see you around on EduNation island or some other edu place in SL 😉

  2. I recognised Karl Fisch material in the video. As you say, very US-centric. Indications are that the future dominant economies are going to be previously third world countries. I get very irritated when people present this information and then follow it up with a drive for improved education, as if the two things are somehow related. As if by educating our kids, we can stem the tide of the shift in balance: “Educate your kids! The Indians/Chinese are coming!” This smacks too much of the swart gevaar (black threat) paranoia that was the mood of the apartheid leaders for too many years in South Africa. Most kids have not grown up in a dominant economy, so the shift in economic power from the US to India/China is not going to make a huge difference to them. If/when we change the way we educate our kids, it must be because we believe they will find it stimulating and fulfilling, and because it will prepare them for satisfying careers, not because we think it will protect them from the inevitable.

  3. As a father of a newborn girl, and an educator in a public school, I would like to share that we should ALL be “scared” about the way that public education is headed. Many of us remember our time in school fondly…. but go to a school that is doing nothing but drill & practice in anticipation for a state examination… be afraid, be very afraid.

    I certainly see the Fisch element – but it doesn’t hurt to restate what should be obvious but is sadly unsaid by administrators in US public schools.

  4. Cool Cat, the YouTube video was poignant and powerful. Prepare them for their world. That’s the part that’s largely absent from many of today’s classrooms, isn’t it? And, I get so overwhelmed with trying to become a 21st century language teacher, my head hurts sometimes, and I get down on myself. Patience is not one of my virtues. Anyway, I hope more collegues stop by and view and share.

  5. from Karyn Romeis-

    She said that the comments were messed up so I’m testing it.

    I recognised Karl Fisch material in the video. As you say, very US-centric. Indications are that the future dominant economies are going to be previously third world countries. I get very irritated when people present this information and then follow it up with a drive for improved education, as if the two things are somehow related. As if by educating our kids, we can stem the tide of the shift in balance: “Educate your kids! The Indians/Chinese are coming!” This smacks too much of the “swart gevaar” (black threat) paranoia that was the mood of the apartheid leaders for too many years in South Africa. Most kids have not grown up in a dominant economy, so the shift in economic power from the US to India/China is not going to make a huge difference to them. If/when we change the way we educate our kids, it must be because we believe they will find it stimulating and fulfilling, and because it will prepare them for satisfying careers, not because we think it will protect them from the inevitable.

  6. This is a great example of how content, when taken out of context can be misconstrued…but it did cause me to really reflect on the content of what I created….

    Karyn stated that If/when we change the way we educate our kids, it must be because we believe they will find it stimulating and fulfilling, and because it will prepare them for satisfying careers, not because we think it will protect them from the inevitable.
    and with this I TOTALLY agree.

    I am a teacher, currently working as a tech integration “coach” for a team of HS teachers that are starting to move towards a 1-1 teaching and learning environment. Trying to develop 21st century skills for kids is difficult with out the 21st century tools to do so. On many occasions I am asked to speak to the board, administrators about what this 21st Century Learning Environment should look like…Why the fear factor in the video…? Many administrators are “afraid’ of the commitment the district needs to make to move to a one-to-one environment. They are not convinced that things need to change that much with instruction and assessment. They want our test scores to go up and are relying on more traditional fixes (e.g. a new prepackaged math program, more professional development, more observations, online learning systems to drill, practice, collect data and then drill some more, more “performance tasks”) After all, they ARE giving them MORE. They figure as long as they have to give, they can get in a lot less trouble for trying traditional fixes than to put expensive laptops into the hands of students…Why the fear factor in the video…? Perhaps to change what they are afraid of:)

    The purpose was not to get folks thinking about changing education for the sake of changing it, but changing their thinking about how kids think and learn and connect to others. True many of the ideas in my video are US-centric, but isn’t that much of the mindset of the US? Part of constructivist thinking is to get people to begin to think outside their world and to prepare kids to look beyond themselves. I am also using this video as part of my presentation at PETE&C called “The Connected Classroom” ways to bring 21st C Learning skills into your classroom.
    http://theconnectedclassroom.wikispaces.com
    Check it out–after the conference I’m opening it up to new ideas….a lot to think about:)

    On another note….I have been a bit freaked out by Second Life…after hearing some of the comments, I think I may have to check it out

  7. Second Life is indeed fascinating but, as you note, its potential as an educational tool will be limited until:

    1. Kids and adults have a secure common area in which to collaborate. The Teen Grid is great but inaccessible to adults; the main grid is potentially too dangerous for kids.

    2. The virtual world becomes an open standard. Right now, Linden Labs holds all of the cards and sooner or later that is going to have to change in order for SL (or a similar virtual world) to take off like the web itself did back in the nineties. The fact that it is proprietary renders it insular and monolithic. I predict that some enterprising open sorcerers (I just came up with that phrase) will create a set of standards for building and connecting virtual world sites, similar to HTML and HTTP way back when. Until then, SL is just an interesting peek into the future.

  8. I am new to the Second Life concept and find it’s applications to education intriguing. I especially like the idea of eliminating stereotyping. This could be the great educational equalizer. I agree that teachers and students need a separate space to interact. I am excited for students with physical disabilities to interact free of stereotypical restraints. It would be interesting to study what types of students succeed in SL compared to those in actual classrooms.

  9. I am new to SL and am intrigued by all of the potential applications for education. I agree that teachers and students need their own space to communicate. I love the idea that students can shed stereotypes once and for all. I can really see an application especially for students with disabilities. I would love to do a study to see what types of students succeed in SL vs. a traditional classroom.

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