At its heart, connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks. Knowledge, therefore, is not acquired, as though it were a thing. It is not transmitted, as though it were some type of communication.
What we learn, what we know — these are literally the connections we form between neurons as a result of experience. The brain is composed of 100 billion neurons, and these form some 100 trillion connections and it is these connections that constitute everything we know, everything we believe, everything we imagine. And while it is convenient to talk as though knowledge and beliefs are composed of sentences and concepts that we somehow acquire and store, it is more accurate — and pedagogically more useful — to treat learning as the formation of connections.
As a school leader, are you facilitating robust STUDENT connections to other resources, individuals, and networks?
As a school leader, are you facilitating robust EDUCATOR connections to other resources, individuals, and networks?
The same movement that we are seeing toward open educational resources in higher education also is permeating P-12. Many educators have happily tapped into the incredible learning opportunities that are available to them and their students. Our ability to be powerful learners has never been greater.
Lost in all of the eagerness around consumption, however, is a concurrent felt need to contribute. Many educators are willing to take and use free resources as they find them, but far fewer create and share resources for the benefit of others. This lack of reciprocity undercuts the ethos of sharing that helped create – and now sustains – the vigor of our new online information landscape.
One of the best things that we can do to improve our local and virtual learning communities is to take seriously our ability and obligations to be contributors to our shared global information commons. We should do this ourselves as educators and we should have our students do this too.
How often do you, your staff, and/or your students contribute something online (with a Creative Commons license) to benefit others? What can you do as a leader to foster an environment of sharing and giving back, not just taking and using?
Drop me a note if you’re a principal or superintendent who is ready to think seriously about this. I’d love to chat with you.
Image credit: From proprietary to open
Google+ just announced its new Communities feature. G+ communities are similar to Facebook groups, only they allow for online videoconferencing ‘hangouts’ and other unique G+ functions.
Two new communities may be of interest to you as a school leader. If you have a Google+ (or Gmail) account, please join us for conversation and resource sharing!
Feel free to pass these on to other educational leaders that you know. All are welcome!
P.S. There’s also a community for those of us who are interested in education in Iowa.
YouTube is testing a feature that would allow multiple choice questions to be embedded on top of videos. Because what the world needs right now is more multiple choice questions alongside video presentations.
Audrey Watters via http://www.hackeducation.com/2012/09/21/hack-education-weekly-news-9-21-2012
Got 13 minutes? Watch this video from Michael Pershan. Plain and simple, American math teachers teach differently than Japanese (and other international) math teachers. What would Khan Academy look like if it came from Japan? Well, it would look more like the work that Dan Meyer’s doing…
Michael’s video was the winner of the #MTT2K prize. Happy viewing!
[This is a guest post by Dustin Lewis, a 5th grade teacher at the American International School of Budapest. Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, he has been teaching internationally for four years, with a previous stop at The Anglo American School in Moscow. Dustin also works part-time promoting First Tutors, a UK-based tutoring service that specializes in finding the right individual tutors for each student. In his spare time, Dustin enjoys reading and Asian cuisine.]
Educating the youth in our society falls primarily on school systems and teachers. In many cases, children don’t receive the specialized and individual attention they need to work through tricky concepts or difficult material. To combat this, some parents hire private tutors to work with their children. In this blog post, I will detail a new tutoring concept that will not only help children learn, but will provide them with opportunities to become socially responsible as well.
“Serve while you learn” may be the most fitting tagline to describe the concept of forward tutoring. Forward tutoring is beneficial for both students and the community, as it combines the process of learning with the idea of giving back to those that have helped you. Students get online help for the subject of their choice while in return, they will participate in community service projects contributing towards the betterment of the community they belong to. The online help offered is, in most cases, as good as classroom coaching except in a personalized one on one setting. The students have access to a number of qualified tutors, in a range of subjects and specialties. Unlike normal tutoring, however, the payment is not in paper currency, but in the form of community service and volunteer projects. Forward tutoring combines serving and learning in an innovative way through the use of technology, helping out not just the students, but everyone in the community that this project touches.
Forward Tutoring Removes Financial Barriers to Tutoring: For most children, the school day ends when the bell rings. Sure, many will go home, do their homework, and study for upcoming exams. For many children, however, this is simply not enough. In larger school districts where the teacher to student ratio may not be ideal, most students do not receive the individualized attention required for them to succeed. In this case, one option for students and parents is to hire an after school tutor. For many families, however, this just isn’t a realistic possibility due to the expensive nature of the tutoring industry. Forward tutoring breaks down these financial barriers, and allows any person from any social or economic background access to personalized and specialized tutoring.
Forward Tutoring is Promoting Student Volunteerism: Nothing can match the vigor of youth. Non-profits are always looking for helping hands to work towards various noble causes, but finding professionals from various fields that offer volunteer help is almost impossible to find. Thus, forward tutoring provides the framework for students to take action. Many times students either want to volunteer, but don’t know of the opportunities, or aren’t aware of the positive social ramifications until they actually help out in the community. Hence, students go through the dual development by being aware as well as educated. Forward tutoring allows the learners to pay forward the learning in the form of helping non-profits, supporting various kinds of community service.
Online Tutoring is Effective, Efficient, and Rewarding: The best part of forward tutoring is the actual learning that takes place. Qualified students go through a comprehensive qualification process, where they are given tools and training to support their struggling peers. These students are learning or have learned the exact same material that many of the learners are struggling with, so it is a perfect match for support. Countless studies have supported the fact that to peer-to-peer learning is one of the best and most effective ways for a student to learn. It works even better when the two students are of different ability levels. Take a look at this study by the National Education Association for more evidence. The goal of all tutoring is to improve and enhance academic performance in the classroom. Peer tutoring has proven to be an effective method for facilitating this improvement for the learner and the tutor alike.
Benefits for the Student Tutors: It may seem that forward tutoring is a great way for struggling students to get support and for everyone to get involved in the community effort. You may ask then, what benefits do the student tutors who give up their free time, without any compensation, receive? In the short term, the answer is simply volunteer hours and the macro perspective of facilitating a peer’s learning to improve one’s own understanding of the subject matter. However, if we look at longer term benefits, forward tutoring has teamed with supporting organizations and corporations that will provide internship and scholarship opportunities.
Forward Tutoring is Open for All: This concept is open for all. Since the backdrop is volunteerism, the only drive that is being considered is willingness to come forward and help, while getting educated in return. The forward tutoring project is a novel concept that is imparting a new meaning to internet tutoring and social welfare that is all tied into classroom achievement. In the end, this project works on the basis of helping others, but consequently many of the students will in fact learn a lot more about themselves.
My Experience: My experience with forward tutoring has been nothing but positive. Having children become socially responsible is one of the most important aspects of my job. Forward tutoring has given me the framework to push children into volunteering who normally would be too shy or unwilling. Our community has also benefitted greatly. We have teamed with two large community service projects during the program. One is a Hungarian version of Walk the Wish and the other is a local dog shelter. Getting participation in both of these activities is never easy, but forward tutoring makes children extend themselves in ways they never thought possible. I’ve had several students tell me that they never imagined community service could be so much fun or rewarding. Children want to do good all they need is a little help and direction. Let forward tutoring help you and as a result help your entire community.
Forward tutoring is the wave of the future. It combines technological platforms with the ideals of helping of others and peer to peer education. Forward tutoring creates a perpetual cycle of learning, volunteering, academic success, and community betterment that will enhance the performance and self-esteem of the children we educate.
Here’s a video about “digital natives” and active learners from Blackboard. Could be an interesting discussion starter…
effective teaching is incredibly complex. It requires planning. It requires reflection. And it certainly requires more than just “two minutes of research on Google,” which is how Khan describes his own pre-lesson routine.
teachers aren’t “pissed off” because Sal Khan is the world’s teacher. They’re concerned that he’s a bad teacher who people think is great; that the guy who’s delivered over 170 million lessons to students around the world openly brags about being unprepared and considers the precise explanation of mathematical concepts to be mere “nitpicking.” Experienced educators are concerned that when bad teaching happens in the classroom, it’s a crisis; but that when it happens on YouTube, it’s a “revolution.”
I confess that I’m struggling with Diane Ravitch lately (and not for the reasons I struggled back in 2010). I think that she’s a valuable voice in the educational policy landscape and I greatly appreciate her passion and her ability to energize educators and citizens as she speaks up against political and pedagogical abuses of our public schooling system. Heck, I just quoted her three days ago. But, despite her usage and leverage of social media to enhance her own voice and visibility, she’s increasingly appearing very anti-technology:
- On July 18 she said, “The demand for virtual schools is a sure indicator of the dumbing down of the American public and the triumph of American capitalism at its greediest.” In a comment to that post, I asked, “Diane, do you not see any role for online learning in P-12 education?” She replied, “Yes, I see a role for virtual learning. I see no useful role for for-profit schools. I see a very limited role for home kind nonprofit virtual schools.”
- Also on July 18, she blogged that she is against Bill Gates’ statement that educational gaming can be “an adjunct to a serious curriculum.” In a comment to that post, I asked, “Diane, do you not see any role for gaming and simulations in P-12 education?” She replied, “A limited role. Gaming is fun and kids can learn from gaming. But kids need to learn to concentrate and to persist when they are not having fun. Gaming doesn’t teach that. Nor does gaming teach how to understand theory or philosophy or how to read critically or how to understand the reason for the game.” When Moses Wolfenstein pushed back quite thoughtfully on those statements, she said, “Actually an all-game school is perfect for the training of drones.”
- Today she blogged against online education again, stating that she is “old-fashioned.” She went on to say:
there is something having the eye-to-eye contact, the face-to-face contact that is really better for purposes of teaching and learning than sitting alone in front of a computer.
I am not saying this to put down technology. I understand how wonderful it is to see visualizations, dramatizations, to see famous people giving famous speeches instead of reading them, to see events rather than reading about them. All of that can be incorporated into lessons.
My gripe is with the very concept that you can learn just as much sitting alone as you can in a group with a live teacher. It may work with adults (although the author of this article doesn’t think so). But it strikes me as developmentally inappropriate for children.
So I’m struggling with her absolute, categorical refusal to recognize that SOME online learning options might be good for SOME public school children (who, after all, also have learning needs that sometimes would be better met by online courses, just like homeschooled children). Like Diane, I abhor the abuses of the online schools and companies that she so aptly describes on her blog. But there’s a difference between calling for better education / oversight and unilaterally denying the medium itself. Online learning is NEVER a good thing for public school children, under any circumstances? I disagree.
Since she’s willing to rail against educational gaming, I’m also struggling with her lack of understanding of the potential benefits of learning games (and maybe also simulations?). Her statement that educational games don’t teach children how “to concentrate and persist when they’re not having fun” shows an ignorance of children’s experiences in many of those games. Like Moses said in his comment, I’m sure that scholars like James Paul Gee, Kurt Squire, Chris Dede, Constance Steinkuehler, David Shaffer, and others would be glad to remedy her misunderstandings. And I’m guessing that they also might be able to teach her how learning games can do some of the things that she says they can’t.
Diane’s anti-technology rhetoric matters because she has a voice that people listen to and others look to her for guidance. As such, her language is quite dismaying because educational technologies will only proliferate, not diminish. Online learning is here to stay, learning games are here to stay, computer-adaptive learning systems are here to stay, and a whole host of other learning tools are as well. The issue is not – as she seems to believe – that they never have any value. The issues are 1) Under what circumstances do these new learning tools and spaces have value?, and 2) How do we create learning and policy environments in which that value is most likely to be realized? [side note: Larry Cuban, for all of his wonderfulness, also typically fails to make this distinction]
Perhaps Diane will blog her belief system(s) about learning technologies and clarify any misperceptions that I have about what she thinks. But right now her beliefs are not ones that I wish she was espousing…
Image credit: Bigstock, Screaming at the computer [no, the image is NOT of Diane Ravitch!]