CCK08 – Whether I do or I don’t makes a difference

I’ve realised that studying in any formal context is not really high on the priority list at the moment.  I am not going to get a pay rise for it so at the moment I’d rather be posting examples of my kids work like this and sharing it with other teachers than reading lots and spending lots of time thinking about Connectivism.

The main two things I have spent time thinking about as I have read this weeks posts and tweets are:

  • If I am ‘the space through which stuff passes’ then whether (and how) I decide to participate is of consequence.  If I don’t participate or am not open to participation I represent a deadend or a roadblock.  If I do then I can’t know my impact and whether it will be a positive or negative experience except in superficial ways.
  • Openness (to ideas, knowledge, divergence, practice, questions, people) is important in learning.  A process that alllows you to actively practice openness is useful in helping you understand where and how connections are being made.

So instead of doing the readings I’m cheating and going straight to my network.  I read How to Save the World regularly because of it’s openness.  I get lots of content on straight educational technology and basically it confirms there are other people out there thinking similiar things and sometimes alerts me to a new tool or resources.  How to Save the World is where I go to get a different perspective – someone who is really committed to thinking holistically about the world, someone who reads different things to me, someone who works in a different field.  For me this is really important for my learning, going outside of the norm.  Anyway so I’m cheating I’m using his list of questions to think about Connectivism.  I understand that my answers are superficial, that there are plenty of underlying complexities but these are my answers for this moment in time as if I was explaining them to someone who was new to networking.

How do we best decide who to include in our networks?

In my job I have been trying to build a community.  A community of readers for my blog.  A community of blogs within me.edu.au that I can read.  A community of communicators on twitter.  I follow lots of people in lots of contexts.  Part of how I have been doing that is by friending/following/subscribing to lots of people on Twitter, me.edu.au, edublogs often this starts a relationship.  Sometimes this is a one-off connection, sometimes it’s deeper.  Some people I watch closely, some not so closely.

Then there are lists.  For example this elearningtwits list.  Someone, somewhere who knows other people who are interested in similiar things puts together a list for example this list of Australian educational Twitteratti and suddenly the connections that I was making seemed closer.  To me this is similar to Facebook’s friend recommendations.  Whilst it is a manual processes it is useful for me in finding people who who deal with the same curriculum issues, the same weather as me.  Not only this but the nature of Twitter meant that not only was I making friends with people on the list but also their friends.  I was also getting lots of friend requests from educators in much more similiar circumstances to me.  Lots of the people who have sort of limited networks of between 10-100 people in Twitter have been the most fun to interact with but I probably wouldn’t have found them without the list.  It was a pretty remarkable day.  It made me appreciate how if I could only keep one tool it would be Twitter.  It’s simple.  It’s rich.  It’s personal.

How can we learn to accommodate more people and build deeper relationships with those in our networks without sacrificing other important activities in our lives?

This is hard.  For me one really important interaction can be as influential as many other non-important interactions.  A peripheral connection with certain people can be as important as a constant connection with another.  If I go with my gut, with what feels right it seems to work out pretty right.  Overall though the more connections, the more open I am the more learning seems to occur.

Maybe too for me it’s about being both diverse and passionate at the same time.  So that each interaction is useful in more than one way.  For example I enjoy listening to music, a little bit of art and it makes me feel pretty good to help others.  So when I read blogs and use my networks I gravitate toward people who tick more than one box.  For example I read a film educators blog that gives me ideas that I can transform for my classroom.

How much time should we invest in networks, with which members, in what ways, and how do we make the most of that time?

I think also it’s important to realise when the connection isn’t as fruitful.  When something, a relationship, a quest or information, analysis of a question, isn’t going anywhere.  It seems to me that as a relationship deepens it can actually take less time to keep it going.  You have history.  You know what you’re talking about.  It’s more that if you have an important question you can rely on them to give you a more considered response.

Some of the best professional relationships I have include a web-developer whose way of thinking inspires me.  I’d prefer to follow a way of thinking that is open and interested than people who will just share a link to a maths resource.  By focusing on like minded idealists like myself who share practical ideas or offbeat viewpoints I am able to draw from an extensive pool of people who can give me lots of different ways of looking at things rather than validating or negating my view point.

I always like adding new people who have a different perspective to me or to the people who I’m used to listening to because they challenge me to really think about my beliefs, about other ways of looking at things.  They open up new doors to resources that have been overlooked.

How do we discover the people who should be in our networks, but currently aren’t?

So one way is the Twitter list example – it just appears on your doorstep because someone else has made the connection for you.  Sometimes it’s through work or reading a blog.  You then follow up a person and follow them around on the web for a while and decide whether they are follow closely type person.

Also I have been listening in on the conversations for ACEC08 which is a educational technology conference in Australia and I’m finding that although the conference is face to face I can kind of meet people and get an idea of people who might be interested to work with, read, listen to.

It will be interesting to see how these relationships progress – if they get deep enough to warrant a two-way buy in or if they remain peripheral.

If learning is, as the instructors of this course contend, nothing more or less than ‘making connections’ (neural, conceptual, and social), how do we learn to learn the things in the chart above and the other things we need to learn to be self-sufficient, useful members of communities – to be who we were intended to be?

I think part of it is learning to listen to our emotions as we learn.  If something feels like it isn’t going well.  If nothing is happening.  If we feel frustrated.  Then we need to consider where is this feeling coming from.

As well as this I think the web is a pretty honest medium.  You can easily get a sense of who is an d*&khead on the web.  You might see a pretenious, egocentric tweet or get your comment deleted from a blog post and you get a sense of a person.  The reverse is true too.  True passion and a good nature opens connections rather than closes them.

The things I have had to learn in a practical sense so that I can feel like I am connected to things is basically learning to take step back and listen to what I’m feeling, make assessments – much less on how I will be perceived by others and much more on what does my contribution add to the whole or add to my own life experience.  I wrote about this in a previous course here.

How do we discover what it is we need to learn?

???

How do we learn to critically assess what we see, hear, and think, and overcome the prejudices, prejudgements and worldviews that block us from being open to new ideas, insights, perspectives and knowledge?

If making connections is the goal then isn’t being involved in very different spheres one way of preventing ourselves from going down narrow paths or buying into narrow ways of thinking that don’t allow us to open ourselves to connections. Perhaps in the future those who keep their fingers in the most divergent pies will be as valuable as those who go very deep in one aspect of knowledge.

We all have learning ‘disabilities’ of one kind or another.  How do we recognise and overcome them?

By listening to the people in our network when we speak – who listens, who responds, are the responses increasing the connections or narrowing them.  By asking what they heard.

In my current teaching role I’m teaching kids with learning ‘disabilities’ I’m excited about the possibilities for them.  Within a network they are able to play small but important roles in many different ways.  I think if we as a society want to solve the problems of the future we need to find better ways of coming up with solutions – not just the solutions themselves.

By understanding accessiblity and providing options both for ourselves and for others we strengthen our neworks by increasing the number of connections and the ways that we can make connections.  This is potentially the most exciting aspect of the change in the way we learn and innovate.

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