Highlighting the 21st Century Learner in a New Ecology of Learning (Week 4 Blog Highlights)

Connected
Week four proved to be an interesting mix of of readings and blog posts. We all read the same readings, however we all took away different key points and main ideas. As Joe pointed out in last week’s blog recap, “that fact that we considered different aspects of the readings speaks to the richness of the conversation occurring with regards to what we see as the new roles for modern learners.” It appears we have accomplished this again and will continue to do so with future blog assignments. I feel this is inevitable as the chances of two or more people writing about the same idea in the same way in the same context would be extremely unlikely. And I feel this is a great point to mention in talking about the connectivism article and the first two chapters (“Arc-of-Life Learning” and “A Tale of Two Cultures”) in Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. The fact that we are able to read an article and take away something that intrigues us, and then read a fellow classmate’s post on the same article and see what they took away, and then compare and contrast the two different views proves to be an invaluable resource. The whole idea of reading about building your own learning network and then actually doing that in a hands-on environment via blogging is fascinating to say the least.

Sam points out that “teaching in the 20th century was static and 21st century learning involves the rapid expansion of knowledge at an increasing rate.” Sam also continues to raise some great thought-provoking questions like how do we keep up with this rapid expansion of knowledge and change and how do we design our comfort in such an environment? This is a great point and one that should not be overlooked, especially in an age where information overload is the norm. A vital skill to combat this “information overload” is being able to differentiate the useful from the useless. Another skill that John Seely Brown’s mentions in The 21st Century Learner YouTube video is this, “Probably the most important thing for kids growing up today is the love of embracing change.” I mentioned in a comment on Sam’s article that maybe if we design out comfort on the very premises of change, of embracing change, just maybe we will find out comfort in a world of complete information chaos. Sam also makes an interesting point when she says that “unlimited creativity and ‘allowing mistakes’ will more likely happen in larger already competitively developing places of employment [like Google].” I have to agree with Sam with this; however, this cannot be the only environment in which this occurs. We must work on creating environment within our school systems that “allow mistakes” and nourish “unlimited creativity”.

To continue with Sam’s comment on “larger already competitively developing places…[like Google]”, Aaron brings up an interesting idea that “many developments are brought forth by for-profit institutions, creating an inherent rush to production. The need to stay ahead, and the competitive nature of such institutions, allow for fundamental components in learning to slip through the cracks.” This is an interesting idea and would agree that for-profit institutions alone will fall short, which leads me to Obama’s ConnectED. I stumbled upon an article a few months ago that caught my attention. The headlines read, “Adobe makes huge $300 million contribution to Obama’s technology-education program.” I continued to explore Obama’s ConnectED program and found out that other tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Autodesk, and Verizon are also donating software, hardware, and millions of dollars with the goal of “connecting 99 percent of America’s students to the digital age through next-generation broadband and high-speed wireless in their schools and libraries within the next five years.” At first I was skeptical, I still am to a point. You can’t just dump technology into education and expect it to work. Obama’s ConnectED plan also outlines the plan to add funding and programs to train the teachers as well. I do agree with Aaron that for-profit companies rush to production and miss the mark when in competition. But if an organization, like the U.S. government, can bring together all these giant tech companies and accomplish this, we could be going somewhere!

Joe talks about the Connectivist model in relation to Brown and Thomas’s story of a nine-year-old boy, Sam, and Scratch. Sam designed a program using Scratch, teaching himself the fundamentals of coding in the process. But this isn’t where Sam’s learning stopped. He then shared his project on the Scratch community and was able to receive feedback and others were able to “remix” his program. Joe points our that the Scratch community “feels self-policed or ‘self-organized’ via the Connectivist model.” This is a great observation that really shows the true value of a learning network. Another important takeaway from Sam’s story was when he was asked what he looks for in other peoples programs. Sam said, something really cool you could never know yourself.” One of the most important aspects of Arc-of-Life Learning, or Connected Learning, or Connectivism is learning how to learn from others. This is exactly what Sam accomplished while teaching himself how to program. Joe also makes a statement that “some learning is more evocative when the presences of an organization, whether it is a non-profit or school or business, is missing or less hands-on.” I linked this to a mindset of being penalized that I feel most people grow up with because of school being more about getting a good grade rather than learning.

All in all, this was another great week of learning, connecting, and building our personal learning networks.

 

 

Week 4 – The New Ecology of Learning

5501637623_dd41e0b754The first two chapters (“Arc-of-Life Learning” and “A Tale of Two Cultures”) in Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change brings to life a very fascinating view of a new ecology of learning. Brown and Thomas describe arc-of-life learning as fundamentally simple as play, questioning, and imagination. “This new type of learning…takes place without books, without teachers, and without classrooms, and it requires environments that are bounded yet provide complete freedom of action within those boundaries” (Thomas 18). Thomas and Brown indicate that this new culture of learning is made up of a framework comprised of two elements (19):

  1. A massive information network that provides almost unlimited access and resources to learn about anything.
  2. A bounded and structured environment that allows for unlimited agency to build and experiment with tings within those boundaries.

The notion of play, questioning, and imagination got me excited. I really enjoyed reading about arc-of-life learning. The section, “Teaching in a Galazy Far, Far Away”, in which it described Douglas Thomas’ course he taught reminded me a lot of my class I took last semester, Design Studio. Throughout the course of the semester, we developed a sort of “show-and-tell” aspect. At the beginning of each class, or sometimes in email the day before or day of, someone in the class would share a new technology or something “techy cool” that we read about or discovered. The just happened one day when someone brought something up that they read about. And then it snowballed from there. By the end of the semester, it was expected that we spent the first 30-45 minutes of each class discussing new technologies that we either read about online or heard about somewhere. This became my favorite part of the class, and I know others as well enjoyed this part. In fact, it was such a great addition that the professor decided to incorporate it into future Design Studio courses.

Another section that caught my interest was “Click Here to Start Learning”. This section discussed a 41-year-old Tom who was diagnosed with diabetes. He discovered an online website, Diabetes Daily. Tom used the forums and the community on Diabetes Daily to learn more about his diagnosis and more-so how to live with the disease, an aspect in which the doctor’s office falls short in helping with. This reminded me a lot of the Reddit communities, which I also mentioned in the Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age article via Diigo. The article quotes Karen Stephenson in saying, “Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge.” This is exactly how Tom learned how to live with diabetes, from stories and experiences of “thousands of people who visit the site every day to share” (Thomas 29). This is the same for Reddit. I actively contribute to and read many subreddits on Reddit. A subreddit is simply a custom-made sub-forum, or a special area of interest. Subreddits are easily defined and found by adding /r/**** to the end of http://www.Reddit.com. One of my favorite subreddits is edtech, or http://www.Reddit.com/r/edtech. It is both informative and entertaining as there is a subreddit for just about everything. (The Education subreddit has over 35,000 subscribers).

To finish, I just wanted to include a table that I created from the two different approaches Brown and Thomas talks about in the end of  “A Tale of Two Cultures”. I liked it so much, I wanted to see the information clearer and remember it easier, so I included it in this blog post for easy reference.

teaching-based approach learning-based approach
1. culture is the environment 1. culture emerges from the environment
2. classroom 2. learning environment
3. focuses on teaching us about the world 3. focuses on learning through engagement within the world
4. students must prove they received the information, that they “get it” 4. students must embrace what they don’t know, come up with better questions, and continue asking those questions in order to learn more and more; the goal is to take the world and make it part of who they are, to re-create it

Week 3 – The Networked Learner through the lens of Connected Learning

“Probably the most important thing for kids growing up today is the love of embracing change.” I thought this was an interesting way the MacArthur Foundation chose to start their video, Rethinking Learning: The 21st Century Learner, with this quote from John Seely Brown. I didn’t catch it at first, but when I re-watched it, it struck a cord in me. I asked myself, do I love to embrace change? I tend to think that I fair rather well with change, better than most people I work with or have went to school with. But do I love it? It’s a great question, and I think a lot of people do not love change, let alone love to embrace it. This idea of learning to not only love change, but loving to embrace it is a very neat twist on how we look at change. If we were to start applying this lens over top of how we normally approach change, I think we would start to make tremendous progress in education.

I really enjoyed John Seely Brown’s The Global One-Room Schoolhouse “Entrepreneurial Leaner” video. I couldn’t agree more with his description of the 21st century learner. In fact, I love it! In the video, he says:

How do you move from a being like a steamship that sets course and keeps going for a long time to…white water kayaking. You have to be in the flow and be able to pick things up on the moment. You gotta feel it with your body. You gotta be a part of that. You gotta be in it, not just above it and learning about it.

This closely resembles how I learn, if not mirrors it almost perfectly. This may come from my strong sense of adventure and me just loving white water kayaking, but I do believe this will continue to be a strong idea of learning as we move forward; and being able to adapt to the fast-paced and always changing ways of today’s culture will be key in advancing education.

I love how John says that play is the essential thing to rebuilding our conceptual lens. But what I love more is how he defines play. He says that play is more of “a permission to fail, fail, and fail again, until you get it right.” Being able to have that permission as a student and freely explore different ideas in a “safe place” would have made my elementary and middle school educational experience a lot different.

The Connected Learning excerpt (pp. 4-12) was rather interesting. I like the statement on page four that “connected learning addresses the gap between in-school and out-of-school learning.” I also noticed this mentioned in the Rethinking Learning video mention above. Diana Rhoten said, “we know that the learning outside-of-school matters tremendously for the learning in-school.” This is a crucial part to education that I feel is always overlooked. When I attended grade school, I used the words ‘school’ and ‘education’ interchangeably. And for me, I was not excited about either. I got my education in school, or so I was told. What I did not know then but know now, is that most of my education, the stuff I’m super passionate about, happened outside of school. How can we develop a school system that incorporates and combines out-of-school and in-school learning? What if we made the student excited and passionate enough to take his or her school home and bring their home to school. This is when we will have passionate learning.

I loved the Connected Learning report, but I feel it fell short where it talked itself up. There was a lot of talk about equity and pushing an equity agenda, which is awesome. This is an important topic and one that should be focused on. The idea that “connected learning [focuses on] deploying new media to reach and enable youth who otherwise lack access to opportunity” is phenomenal. The authors state that, “[connected learning] is not simply a “technique” for improving individual educational outcomes, but rather seeks to building communities and collective capacities for learning and opportunity.” Fast forward a few paragraphs and this is where I got tripped up:

We discuss our approaches to learning and media engagement in general terms, but because our research centers on the U.S. and Great Britain, our frameworks will likely be most relevant in places that share similar social, cultural, and economic conditions with these two countries.

How can a report like this focus on equity for those who “lack access to opportunity” if it’s research only spans two of the world’s most advanced economies? I still think connected learning is great. But how would this article address those young people who do not have the world at their fingertips? Like children in a poor region in South America? Or Africa? It appears we are still just on the tip of the iceberg with education.

Week 2 – Navigating the Web 2.0 for Social Learning

Learning is about to be disrupted and I believe education is on the verge of a complete makeover. Brown and Adler make a great point in their article, “Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0″ about social learning:

The most profound impact of the Internet, an impact that has yet to be fully realized, is its ability to support and expand the various aspects of social learning. What do we mean by “social learning”? Perhaps the simplest way to explain this concept is to note that social learning is based on the premise that our understanding of content is socially constructed through conversations about that content and through grounded interaction, especially with others, around problems or actions. The focus is not so much on what we are learning but on how we are learning.

I like how they state that “the most profound impact of the Internet…has yet to be fully realized.” I think institutions and schools are finally beginning to catch on to how social learning can be stimulated by the use of Web 2.0 tools. In today’s age, it’s not what we are learning that counts. What counts is if we are learning to learn. I was fortunate enough to attend a keynote speech by Robert Stephens, founder of The Geek Squad and former CTO of Best Buy, at a lifelong learning conference last November in San Francisco. He spoke about the implications of social media and what that means for our society. His business card is all white with his twitter handle on it. He questions why there is even a need for business cards anymore. He also told us that, “people are learning how to learn.” A great example he used was YouTube. He asked how many of us in the audience have watched a YouTube video in the past year to learn something. Almost the whole audience raised their hands.

If used properly, learning within and outside of the classroom with Web 2.0 tools would stir up passion and excitement amongst students. Take for example a group facilitation and team-building class that was offered last semester. The instructor utilized Google Communities and QR codes to organize a digital scavenge hunt as a final project for the students. The students then took their learning outside of the classroom and was able to use their smartphones and a QR reader app to progress through a digital scavenger hunt, and the instructor was able to keep up-to-date as the students posted their progress to the class-designated Google Community. This is just one way how instructors are embracing Web 2.0 tools to create a different kind of learning environment, an environment that is rich in Web 2.0 tools in which students are fully engaged and asking for more.

This also brings up a crucial shift in the relationship between the learner and the teacher/facilitator. In the traditional learning environment, the teacher would stand in the front of the classroom and lecture. This is slowly changing in that the teacher is now becoming more of a facilitator than a lecturer. The teacher is still knowledgeable in the subject matter, but the difference is that the teacher is now an expert navigator in how to find more knowledge. In John Seely Brown’s article “Learning, Working & Playing in the Digital Age“, he predicts that navigation will be a new form of literacy in the 21st century:

What I want to suggest, though, is that the new literacy, the one beyond just text and image, is one of information navigation. I believe that the real literacy of tomorrow will have more to do with being able to be your own private, personal reference librarian, one that knows how to navigate through the incredible, confusing, complex information spaces and feel comfortable and located in doing that. So navigation will be a new form of literacy if not the main form of literacy for the 21st century.

I think this was and still is a great prediction. In today’s classroom, the teacher must be able to facilitate people and navigate knowledge. WordPress-navigation-widgetThis opens doorways for students to lead discussions, challenge beliefs, and explore new ideas. And the teacher is there to help share information and guide the discussions.

The onset of these learning shifts must be met with open minds. We can’t expect to embrace these new technologies in the current school system. Schools must be redesigned. Classrooms must be rethought. And our education system must be reevaluated. I’m not saying change everything, but more of don’t be afraid of the inevitable change. Last semester I had the privilege of being able to work with the professor of Design Studio and the department of educational technology in “re-imagining Design Studio”. We experimented with several technologies, including: Google Communities, Adobe Connect, Second Life, twitter, and video conferencing. During the semester we came up with four main points and used those to “re-imagine” Design Studio for the future.

  1. Foster design thinking and a design mindset.
  2. Develop technology skills and expertise within a “customized experience”.
  3. Encourage participation through a community.
  4. Provide opportunities to work on collaborative in-class design projects.

These four points would be a great starting point for designing any learning environment, whether that is online or in a physical classroom.

 

Personal Learning Philosophy v1

learningPhilosophy

Based on your education and experiences, what is your view about learning and how it occurs? One of my favorite quotes is by William Butler Yeats, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” This explains my personal learning philosophy in a nutshell. All through middle school and high school, I was not motivated. I was that kid that flat out did not like school. It wasn’t working for me. And now I realize that was because I was essentially trying to fill my pal with knowledge. Well the problem that arises from this is that a water bucket can become full, and once that bucket is full, it overflows. I was overflowing a lot in school and was losing a lot of knowledge because I just wasn’t into it. It wasn’t until the latter years of my undergraduate studies in which I became excited about learning. It was partly because I had some great professors, and partly because I was getting an education in which I was passionate about. I was engaged. I was having fun. I was learning. Once I graduated college, I knew I wanted to pursue a master’s degree, something I never saw in my cards in high school.

If you are aware of any philosophies/theories of learning, which would you subscribe to?  I am not aware of any philosophies or theories of learning. I have yet to have an educational theory or psychology course. But after reading a few archived and current blogs, I can say that I do not subscribe to the Behaviorist theory where positive outcomes are rewarded and negative outcomes are punished. I believe this is a thing of the past and it needs to be changed. There needs to be an environment in the classroom where children can experiment and discover without being punished. This is how learning is fostered, in creativity and exploration. Once you imposed standardized testing and punishments for negative actions or answers, students become less inclined to try new things and explore new avenues.

What is the role of the learner and the teacher in a learning environment? The roles of the learner and teacher, I think, will become much more fluid as education shifts and changes. The learner should also be the teacher and the teacher should also become a learner. In creating a two-way avenue of teaching-learning, both parties become actively engaged and new ideas and discussion stem from flipping the tables. I think the role of teacher is now becoming more of a facilitator that will guide students in group projects and discussions and the learner will need to actively pursue questionable issues or topics in which interests them.

How do you know if learning is occurring and what are visible indicators or signs of learning? Learning can occur in a ton of different ways. A great way to measure learning is by having a discussion. Is the student engaged? Are they asking questions? That’s great, they are probably learning. Signs of learning have historically been measured with tests and essay papers. But I feel there are better ways to measure learning and that includes projects, both individual and group. Have the same project at the beginning of a semester and then again at the end, and then measure the progress made in that time period.

What is the role of technology in learning? Technology is simply a tool to be used in learning. Learning has been happening for ages, and it gets better and better with each new tool. Some of the first tools were pencil and paper, and then books, and then a computer. Now we have the internet and the Web 2.0. How can we use the Web 2.0 as a technology tool to enhance and foster learning?