Reinventing the Library? Or Should We Be Thinking Bigger? (Makerspaces and Hybrid Learning Spaces)

What is the purpose of today’s library? Is it “just another dusty bookshelf” (Graves)? Or maybe just another “warehouse—a place to go to get things” (Foote)? Or are “today’s libraries incubators, collaboratories, the modern equivalent of the seventeenth-century coffeehouse: part information market, part knowledge warehouse, with some workshop thrown in for good measure” (Colegrove)? My favorite definition of what today’s libraries are is simple. Literacy. But “[not] just print literacy; we are about ‘understanding the world we live in’ literacy” (Foote). This is great, and exactly what we need. We need a place where we can come and understand the world, not a place to come check out a book. Colleen Graves, a school librarian at Lamar Middle School in Flower Mound, Texas says that “at [her] school, students now see the library as a place where they not only belong, but a place where they can become a cutting-edge leader.” In a world where everything and everybody are constantly being judged and compared, having an environment free of comparison, free of judgement, free to be who you are and passionately seek after what you love, this has the potential to dramatically shift education into 21st century learning.

Graves makes a vital point when discussing successful workshops in their school’s library makerspace.

The key to successful workshops was letting the teens choose what workshops we would hold.

This is a great way to engage timid or quiet students. An example Graves used in her article was a student who stepped up to lead a Minecraft workshop during their one of their “Mayker Monday” events. The student’s teachers were so surprised he “volunteered to lead others” that they came to the library to ask if the student really was leading the workshop. If that’s not enough proof that makerspaces work, then I’m not sure what else is. Reaching out to these “quite and reserved” students has always been a challenge in school. But if we present opportunities where these students can lead their peers in something they love doing, there’s no telling where the possibilities might lead. Graves followed up with saying that this “quite and reserved” student “felt ownership in the library and felt like it was not only a safe place, but also a place where he could grow.”

Makerspaces are great, but as Tod Colegrove said, they have “been happening for thousands of years.” We just lost touch of what a library is for, or we failed to stay current with our advancing, tech-society. We need to think bigger. What if we had schools that were makerspaces? Woah. There is a school in Los Angeles that is disrupting education. A lot of people are uncomfortable with A School Day That’s All About Play (especially parents), but at the PlayMaker School, they are doing just that, playing.

playmaker-school

This school is really pushing the boundaries of education, and it’s wonderful. Another great read that dives into a little more detail on this school is A School That Ditches All The Rules, But Not the Rigor. Ted Wakeman, an educator at the PlayMaker School in LA, was drawn to the playmaker approach because he “grew disillusioned with how students were forced to learn.” His views are aligned up perfectly with the PlayMaker School:

When we talk about the area of a trapezoid or when King Tut died…, might these things be important to a small sliver of the population? Sure, but data in the 21st century, I can look on my phone and in 20 seconds get the answer to pretty much anything. So shouldn’t we be teaching broader skill sets, encouraging curiosity, creative thinking?

This nails it for me. I remember in middle school, high school, and even college—I was that kid that asked, “Why do I need to know this?” I didn’t care about when the fourth battle of the Revolutionary War started. I didn’t care about the Pythagorean theorem. Memorizing that did nothing more than get me a higher test score on my school’s standardized test. I didn’t really learn anything except that I needed to plug this number into here and that number into there. A quick Google search leads straight to a Wikipedia page that tells me the theorem is a2 + b2 = c2. Wakeman is right. We can find basically anything we want on the internet. So why are we teaching these monotonous, memorizing-based facts? Shouldn’t we be teaching 21st century skills, like navigation literacy? In a previous article I wrote, Navigating the Web 2.0 for Social Learning, I quoted John Seely Brown in his article Learning, Working & Playing in the Digital Age. Hepredicts 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.

Everyone knows the saying, “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” The PlayMaker School in LA understands this. They aren’t concerned about their kids memorizing meaningless facts and numbers. They are concerned that their students are learning how to learn.

References

Barseghian, Tina (2014 July). A School That Ditches All the Rules, But Not the Rigor

Barseghian, Tina (2014 July). A School Day That’s All About Play

Colegrove, Tod. (2013, March). Editorial Board Thoughts: Libraries as Makerspace?

Foote, Carolyn. (2013, September) Making Space for Makerspaces

Graves, Colleen (2014, March) Teen Experts Guide Makerspace

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TOK, Hawaii, and Twitter (Week 8: Social networks for learning)

You don’t get to pick your family, but you can pick your teachers and you can pick your friends and you can pick the music you listen to and you can pick the books you read and you can pick the movies you see. You are, in fact, a mash-up of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influences. The German writer Goethe goethe-quotesaid, “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”  -Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

“You don’t get to pick your family, but you can pick your teachers.” This is one of my favorite quotes from a book by Austin Kleon that I read over a year ago, Steal Like an Artist. At the time, I didn’t realize the impact it would have on me and how much it would relate to educational technology. It’s funny that the article I’m about to discuss mentions this same author, Austin Kleon.

In the article Theory of Knowledge, Social Media and Connected Learning in High School, Howard Rheingold interviews Amy Burvall, a teacher at Le Jardin Academy in Hawaii, about how she uses Web 2.0 tools to support a course she teaches about the Theory of Knowledge. It is rather amazing and I found the interview quite compelling. In the video interview, Burvall mentions that the class watches a lot of TED talks and the whole course is based on a blog with each student having their own blog, which sounds very familiar to our current class! Burvall also heavily relies on backchanneling to involve the more introverted students who are less likely to participate orally. She says she often finds that these students “blossom” on twitter or vlogs, a video blog.

Blogging and vlogging are not only about the projects the students create, but about their creative process: “The author Austin Kleon has a book coming out called Show Your Work and a hashtag on Twitter, #showyourwork, which has become a mantra in our classroom,” says Burvall.

It’s not about the projects, but more about how they became to be, the journey. This is awesome and has so many other applications in life. This stuck out to me the most because I am familiar with Austin Kleon. As mentioned above, I read his first book. I haven’t had a chance to pick up Show Your Work yet, but I definitely plan on it. I did, however, check out the hashtag #showyourwork on twitter, and was very impressed and intrigued by how many people are conversing through that backchannel and using Kleon’s hashtag and book to put themselves out their. I think twitter is a highly underrated educational tool that is not used nearly enough in the classroom, or out of the classroom!

I found Burvall’s use of twitter, the G+ community, and blogging to be super engaging and fun. Burvall has her students blog, then tweet their blog posts AND then post them on their class G+ community. This opens up doors to invite others outside of their class and community to join the conversation on twitter and G+. This is true power – having the ability to talk to anyone about anything on any subject. It is great that Burvall is teaching such an important skill at a young age.

TOK students don’t just use social media tools — they use them for specific purposes. They reflect on their purposes and how the tools support them, or not. They learn how to study knowledge, not just as an academic pursuit, but as an essential life skill in a digital milieu.

This is so important to understand that we shouldn’t “just use social media tools” but we should be teaching our students to “reflect on their purposes and how the tools support them”. In another DMLcentral article, A Collaborative Guide to Best Digital Learning Practices for K-12, a document was created on Google Docs in “Bangkok, Thailand, at the March 28-31 teacher’s meeting of EARCOS, the East Asia Regional Council of Schools”. Collaboratively, they came up with a great preamble in my opinion. “Tools aren’t teachers, they aren’t students, and they aren’t magic.” They started off their document with this and I feel that it’s super important that teachers understand this. Tools are nothing more than tools.

Another one of my favorite aspects of Burvall’s course was how she used twitter for the “twitter question of the week”. I think this is a great way to really get the students engaged and also introduce them to the power of twitter. Having a class hashtag and attaching that to all of their conversations, including the twitter question of the week, allows others to follow their conversations on twitter and participate. Burvall described the twitter question of the week as sometimes being deep, like what makes us human, or other times being more specific, like what is your strongest memory. I think this would be a great way to engage students even further with class discussions. Burvall said that she finds it interesting to see who jumps in on these questions and how they will sometimes challenge what the students say. I always find this extremely fun when other people jump in to a backchannel twitter conversation and add value to what is happening. I once tweeted how cool and interesting I thought a certain book was. What happened next? The author private messaged me on twitter asking for my address. He sent me a free copy of the book!! Twitter has power.

The last thing I would like to touch on is Burvall’s use of circles. I found this fascinating and would love to be a part of a class that does this. She forms an inner and outer circle of students. The inner circle discusses questions and ideas out loud while the outer circle is backchanneling on twitter. The tweets are then archived via Storify and those act as the “class notes”. This allows students to participate in both verbal and digital discussions. I think this would be really neat to try out in a classroom setting to see what would flourish.

Overall, this was a great read and a very interesting interview to watch. It appears that Burvall is right on track to adapting a diverse array of Web 2.0 tools into her TOK class. I was able to check out a few of the students blogs that Rheingold linked to, and they were very neat to browse through and watch some of the class vlogs.

 

Rediscovering Wikipedia for Education (Week 7: Wikis and learning)

wikipedia1I must say I was not aware of the power of Wikipedia until this week. I was very familiar with Wikipedia before, but not so familiar with it’s use for education. I found myself on a digital journey of rediscovering Wikipedia through Schweder and Wissick’s “The Power of Wikis” from the Journal of Special Education and the DMLcentral article on Wadewitz. Schweder and Wissick’s article was a nice, light read. It was a good transition into Losh’s article about Adrianne Wadewitz, How to Use Wikipedia as a Teaching Tool: Adrianne Wadewitz.

Schweder and Wissick break down educational wikis into four categories and provided some great examples of each (which I also listed a few that they mentioned):

  1. collaboration
  2. sharing
  3. organization
  4. instruction

I liked this article because it was short, sweet, and to the point. It gave a brief description of each category, showcasing specific wikis, which provided to be great resources that I listed a few of them above. The category that caught my eye was organization and their shout-out to “techies”. Schweder and Wissick say that “as ‘techies,’ we are constantly bookmarking Web sites that we think might be useful to us now and in the future” and that “we also like to share information with others that we find.” It’s as if they were describing me. I am always bookmarking and saving websites – I even started a links page in this blog that I just renamed “My edtech Toolbox“. I just might have to create my own wiki to collect and share web sites and links!

What really got me going was the article about Adrianne Wadewitz. I was saddened to discover from her Wikipedian page that she passed away a few months ago. As tragic as this is, Wadewitz will always be remembered by her advocacy for adopting Wikipedia in education, fighting for feminism in Wikipedia, and from what I can gather, her amazing passion for education and life and her love of rock climbing. According to Losh, “[Wadewitz] helped write a helpful brochure from the Wikimedia Foundation on ‘How to Use Wikipedia as a Teaching Tool‘.” I also stumbled upon a video on my journey to rediscovering Wikipedia about “The Impact of Wikipedia” that features Wadewitz. I discovered a whole new world of Wikipedia. I never knew about Wiki awards, which very much resemble badging, and badging is a strong interest of mine. There are also userboxes that you can add to your Wikipedian page, that are used to give a sense of personality to a person. Check out Adrianne Wadewitz’s collection of userboxes on her page. I find all of this very interesting. Everything combined together could almost resemble a professional portfolio of accomplishments.

Back to Losh’s article on DMLcentral, I especially liked, and found most useful, Wadewitz’s examples of common mistakes that instructors make.

  • When asked to identify the most common mistakes instructors make when assigning students to contribute to Wikipedia, Wadewitz argued that “the biggest one is not understanding that the encyclopedia is made up of editors.”  While an “old-fashioned” reference work like Britannica can be approached naively as “just entries that you go to and read” without serious consequences, “the essence of Wikipedia is the community,” which means respecting “its efforts” and understanding how “a global group of editors” might “work collaboratively” and “to think about it ahead of time.”
  • When asked to identify common mistakes made on the side of instructors, she pointed out that “not taking enough time to design an assignment” could be a fatal error committed by novices, particularly those who are excited by the potential for participatory learning.  Diving right in and learning by trial and error “works for a lot of technology,” but “with Wikipedia you are engaging with a lot of people on the other end,” so you need to articulate feasible learning goals that respect existing community practices.

These are great takeaways from Wadewitz. I think these common mistakes illustrate just how knowledge building occurs in wikis — through collaboration over a network of global editors. And once an educator understands just how this happens, they will be able to create more well-rounded and engaging lessons for the students.

My only concern when it comes to group projects involving wikis is that only one person can edit a page at once. If that’s the case, how does the group communicate? Do they make a comment on the page and wait for a reply, which could come a few hours or days later? Do they use another Web 2.0 tool for communication purposes? I am not aware of any messaging service within wiki sites. What if more than one person wanted to make edits during the same time? I feel as if this would not be possible and therefore wikis would prove to be inefficient when real-time editing and group work is needed, and this is where Google Docs fills in the gap. Although Docs does not create a full-encompassing, web-hosted website, I guess tradeoffs come with everything. It even appears that the Google wiki does not allow simultaneous editing either.

As my blog post title hints, I have rediscovered Wikipedia. I was always aware of Wikipedia and used it on a regular basis for a quick reference or to look up information about a movie or an actor. But I have never considered its use for education. I must say what I have found is promising and I can’t wait to explore wikis and Wikipedia even further.

Exploring Flickr and Podcasts in the Classroom (Week 6 – Educational Applications of Web 2.0 Tools)

flickr-in-educationLet me start off my saying Flickr is outdated, or at least so I thought. I have never used Flickr nor have I had any interest in using this medium. I grew up with the cliché stereotype that Flickr was for girls and photographers. Now that I am a videographer, I know that photographers rarely use this site and girls gravitate toward Tumblr more. After reading “Pedagogical Uses of Flickr” by Jennifer Chu and Erik Van Dusen in 2008, I still wasn’t sold. Everything they described in that article, Pinterest does better, at least in my opinion. Pinterest is more popular, more versatile, and provides more options to spark creativity. However, after looking into Flickr a little further, I discovered that Flickr now gives everyone a terabyte of free storage. That was enough to spark my interest. I signed up for Flickr using my already created Yahoo email, which was simple enough, and lone behold, 1 free terabyte of storage! I was impressed by the revamped structure and usability of Flickr. I still believe Pinterest is has far more versatile in the classroom, but I will admit that there could be potential for picture blogging and digital storytelling. Chu and Dusen acknowledge that Flickr “allows students to explore the world around them from the comfort of their own classroom and home through photographs.” Eh, I’m sure it does. But so does Pinterest. And now Instagram. And Twiiter, and Facebook, and so on. I understand this article was written in 2008 and back then, Flickr was a great medium for exploring the world through your computer. But due to the ridiculous growth of new social media platforms, that has since lost its touch. The last thing I would like to touch on from C&D Flickr’s article is in the closing statement. They quoted Will Richardson in saying, “using web applications such as Flickr in educational settings carries some risks and it is usually the teacher’s job to teach students what is safe to post in terms of safety and privacy.” I bring this up because I feel it relates to the conversation that was sparked from Joe’s blog 4, Networked Teacher, about privacy. There is a big risk that comes with using Web 2.0 tools in educational environments, especially for children. This is why it is important for the teacher to first explore these tools and become familiar with them first, before employing them in the classroom, as Richardson and Mancabelli point out in “Becoming a Networked Learner” chapter in their book Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education.

It’s not enough to employ these tools and technologies with our students; we have to employ them in our own learning practice. Otherwise, nothing changes. The vast majority of classroom uses of blogs, for example, are little more than taking what has already been done on paper for eons and publishing it in a different medium. In these cases, nothing has changed because the person at the front of the room (or in the front office) doesn’t understand that a blog is not simply about publishing; it’s about connecting. The great opportunity these tools provide is that they allow us to interact with others out there, but it’s an opportunity that’s meaningful only if we experience the full potential that exists in those interactions. (34)

This is crucial to understand. I fear that if we do not introduce Web 2.0 tools such as blogging to our students, we are limiting developing their personal learning networks and their education. But if we understand the tools, understand the risks, and give students the option to make these connections and interactions, it could be a game-changer.

Another game-changer that are not used even remotely enough as they should be, are podcasts. Most of my experiences with podcasts come from me subscribing to Happy Tree Friends and the Best of YouTube on my first iPod, not even close to being educational. But as you can see like any other Web 2.0 tool, podcasts are used for many more purposes than just education. I have had only one experience with podcasts in an educational environment, and that came last semester in Design Studio (LDT 550). We used Flipgrid to virtually introduce ourselves and to play around with a new edtech tool. You could argue that Flipgrid isn’t exactly a podcast, but I agree…and disagree. I would say it falls under the podcast umbrella, but just like other Web 2.0 tools, they are constantly evolving and transforming to fit the needs of this world. In an article posted in the British Journal of Educational Technology, “Educational usages of podcasting“,  Howard Harris and Sungmin Park say that podcasting “has become a means of communication and dialogue between teachers and students.” Flipgrid allowed us (the students of LDT 550) and the professor to asynchronously communicate via a short video clip. The professor created our “Flipgrid classroom” and posted a question. We then answered the question with a short video that anyone in the class could view at any time, and respond with another video. As Harris and Sungmin point out in their conclusion, “podcasting enables direct communication and interaction with students which go beyond the temporal and spatial limitations of conventional face-to-face education.” This is exactly what Flipgrid did for our classroom. LDT 550 was not an online course. We met once a week in a classroom; however, we used tools such as Flipgrid, Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect, and even Second Life to push the boundaries of our classroom experience.

Want to create your own podcast? Check out my podcasting resources under my links page!

Week 5 – The Journey to Becoming a Networked Learner & Educator

the-journey-network-300x209

I would like to start this post off a little different. I absolutely loved the readings this week and want to list a few of my favorite one-liners.

“do-it-yourself professional development (DIYPD)” (Richardson 33)

“what we learn about how to interact with others online is just as important as what we learn about the topics at hand” (Richardson 35)

“Without sharing, there is no education.” [quoted from Brigham Young professor David Wiley, 2008] (Richardson 35)

“The people, conversations, and content that you’ll be immersing yourself in are distributed all over the web, glued together with the judicious use of links by the people you connect with.” (Richardson 36)

“serendipitous learning” (Richardson 37)

“planet-scale sharing” [as author Clay Shirkey (2010) calls it] (Richardson 38)

“What if you thought of Twitter as a place to share not just your life but the conversations and content that really make you think about whatever your passions are?” (Richardson 39)

“it’s not a race; no one is grading you, and everyone will travel a different path.” (Richardson 54)

“To teach is to model and to demonstrate. To learn is to practice and to reflect.” (Siemens [in quoting Stephen])

“An educator needs a point of existence online – a place to express herself and be discovered” (Siemens)

“Persistent presence in the learning network is needed for the teacher to amplify, curate, aggregate, and filter content and to model critical thinking and cognitive attributes that reflect the needs of a discipline.” (Siemens)

Honorable Mentions: “link love” (39); “digital footprint” (41); “The weblog, or ‘blog,’ is the granddaddy of social media” (50); “Facebook is the eight-hundred-pound gorilla of social networking” (52)

Now that I have that out of my system, let’s take a look at what I see as the most important areas of professional development for educators to become 21st century educators. I believe one of the most important areas for educators will be the development of their own DIYPD, or do-it-yourself professional development, as mentioned in Richardson and Mancabelli’s Personal Learning Networks book. This term fascinated me and I wasn’t sure why at first, and then I realized that I have always been a “DIPYD-er”, at least in the sense that Richardson and Mancabelli talk about it. I grew up connected. From an early age, I remember sitting at the computer desk with my dad, waiting for the dial-up connection to stop buzzing and making weird noises. I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but I didn’t really care either. All I knew was that when it finished, I could log onto AIM with my super-old, cheesy screen-name, zboarderxl1. I think I was 7 or 8 at the time. That is when I began building my network of connections. That is when I became infatuated with the digital world. I consider AIM my gateway drug. I then got hooked on Xanga and MySpace, and eventually Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blogger, and just about every other social media networking application out there. It is a crazy world of connections, and I believe the first step in 21st century DIYPD is being connected and building a vast network of quality connections.

Being connected is just the tip of the iceberg. Richardson and Mancabelli provide an awesome blueprint to maximizing your potential out of your “networked learning environment” (35).

  • Passion to learn
  • Sharing
  • Quality, not quantity
  • Well-developed sense of self-direction
  • Balance
  • Reflection
  • Face-to-face networks

Start with your passion. Whatever your passion is, there is someone else out there that shares it. It doesn’t matter if your passion isn’t your profession, start with it, and then go from there. And don’t forget to share along the way. A link here, a quote there, maybe a video or personal opinion, work your way up to blog posts! An important rule to remember when you began making connections is quality, not quantity. It’s all about the type of connections you make, now how many. Once you get started, you may find yourself lost in world of links and unlimited resources. SocialMediaThis is where a “well-developed sense of self-direction” come into play. You must learn how to navigate this ridiculous, confusing, dangerous, and endless digital world. That may sound daunting, but once you catch the hang of it, don’t forget balance. Balance is key. Turn everything off. Don’t let your smartphone become handcuffs. I know for me, I sometimes find myself held captive by those tiny, little red bubbles on my iPhone that tell me I have a notification. It won’t hurt “going dark” every now and then and enjoying grass and trees, and this thing called the outdoors! Next is reflection. Pretty basic, reflect on what you are learning. Are you learning? And last but not least, the digital world is nothing without your face-to-face networks. What’s the point of being connected to someone on the other side of the world if you can’t share that information with your co-workers or next door neighbors? That’s it. That’s Richardson and Mancabelli’s blueprint to networked learning environments.

For educators, I feel building a personal networked learning environment through DIPPY is absolute necessary to becoming an efficient 21st century educator. While building this networked learning environment, you will come across and use so many tools, you will start to lose track of user names and passwords. I would recommend mastering a select few of these tools. Pick out 2-3 tools and really dive into the nitty-gritty and understand exactly how they work. Understanding this will not only help you to develop a richer network, but it will also allow you to better understand your students, as they have already mastered most of these tools. networked-teacher1Before I move on, I want to reiterate Richardson and Mancabelli’s point that they mention several times. Do not jump right into using these tools in your classroom. Become familiar with them. This is so important because if you don’t necessarily understand key terms or functions, your students may leave you in the dust during assignments or even worst, students may become disengaged because of the lack of usability by their teacher leading the assignment.

I’m going to end with another blueprint, one outlined by Siemens in his Connectivism blog post,  “Teaching in Social and Technological Networks“. Here he outlines what it looks like to be an educator in these networked learning environments:

  • Amplifying
  • Curating
  • Wayfinding and socially-driven sensemaking
  • Aggregating
  • Filtering
  • Modelling
  • Persistent presence

By mastering these seven fundamentals, teachers will began to transform from “controlling” a class to “influencing” a class and their learning networks. This is another essential element in bridging the gap from 20th century teaching/learning and 21st century teaching/learning.

 

Siemens. Connectivism. Teaching in Social and Technological NetworksWordPress, 16 Feb. 2010. Web. 11 June 2014. <http://www.connectivism.ca/?p=220&gt;.

Richardson, Will and Rob Mancabelli. Becoming a Networked Learner. Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education. Rosolina, Rachel. ed. New York. Solution Tree Press. 2011. 193554327X. pp. 33-57.

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?