Getting Connected with Connectivism

by brenda sherry

This week I began a course with George Siemens and Stephen Downes called Connectivism and Connected Learning CCK11.  I’m in that beginning state of reading and digesting some new material and needing to spend some more time thinking and reflecting, but there have been some points that have resonated with me as a teacher this week.

2 things have really jumped out at me this week from the readings:

The first is Stephen’s theory of teacher practice:

“And I have also expounded, in slogan form, a basic theory of practice: ‘to teach is to model and demonstrate, to learn is to practice and reflect.’  No short-cuts, no secret formulas, so simple it could hardly be called a theory. Not very original either. That, too, is not my fault. That’s how people teach and learn, in my view.  Which means that a lot of the rest of it (yes, including ‘making meaning’) is either (a) flim-flammery, or (more commonly) (b) directed toward something other than teaching and learning. Like, say power and control.”

I just can’t stop thinking about this related to all that I do in the classroom, and it accurately captures my frustration that so much of the job that is unrelated to teaching and learning, but is actually about contrived situations put in place to control teachers and students.  I look forward to seeing how an environment that appears to lack a centre will empower learners as I observe my learning and the learning of others throughout this course.   Sounds like the control resides with the learner…and I love that!

The second thing I’m thinking about are the connected learners:

I’ve noticed for a while now, that some teachers just seem to learn differently than others.  All of my colleagues can be considered ‘good learners’ in that they have reached certain milestones of certification that allow them to be Ontario teachers, however some teachers I meet embrace technology a little more quickly than their colleagues.  I had been thinking that teachers who come from a more ‘constructivism’ philosophy about learning seem to see the benefits of technology use for the autonomy and contact with resources (and people) on the web that it brings to students.  After this week I’m rethinking that idea and I’m wondering if perhaps these teachers are different in another way too.  Are they more connected learners to begin with?

I’m thinking that connected learners might have some common characteristics:

  • initiative
  • autonomy
  • a tendency to search out and exploit resources (people, books, technology) around them
  • a reflective nature
  • self-regulative behaviour

I’m still not sure about the difference between constructivism and connectivism and right now I’m comfortably confused about it.  These are just my initial thoughts as a novice to connectivism and I’m looking forward to more learning in the upcoming weeks.

I’m looking forward to immersion in this connected environment of my first MOOC to see what connected learning is all about!