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.

 

 

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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