Connections and Learning

21 10 2012

I just spent a day at a teacher librarian’s conference where I was surrounded by people who are excited about change in education and at the same time scared stiff.  Chris Kennedy, Superintendent of West Vancouver School District gave the Keynote speech.  He talked about the role of teacher librarians in technological implementation in schools. I was intrigued by a few things that he said, so after reading his blog, I took a look at the work of Will Richardson, via this TEDxMelbourne presentation .

Richardson is a big voice for educational reform.  He has some interesting ideas, but one in particular made me crazy.  He said something to the effect of there is no point in learning facts, you can look them up on google.  I have to disagree, a lot.  Education is more than learning facts.  Could you google an article on foreign policy and read it if you had to look up every country, every politician and every big word?  I know I couldn’t. How about math? If you don’t know basic addition are you ever going to understand algebra? Calculus? Chemistry? No.

Education needs to be about training your brain how to find answers, not about getting them.  There is merit in learning basic facts, they allow us to make connections to other ideas and form questions.

I am very interested in the work of George Siemens who is the founder of the Connectivism: Open Social Learning theory.  He argues that learning is all about making connections. Something elementary teachers have been fostering for years.  This is not a new idea, but how we use it in a technological age is. Siemens talks about “Sensemaking not learning.” When learners have the tools of their sensemaking under their own control, they have the capacity to shape and direct the activities that they find meaningful.”

He says that Open Social Learning is:

  • responsive to the needs of the individual
  • adaptive
  • fluid, varied and contextual

I’m not convinced that this is not already happening in elementary schools.  We use “think, pair, share,”  we encourage group work and group learning, we take advantage of “teachable moments,” we adapt lessons and curriculum to the needs of the students, we try to teach in themes to make sure our students are learning in context. Perhaps our educational leaders need to be elementary school teachers instead of University Professors. That is one thing I do agree with Richardson about.  Teachers need to start screaming about what we believe in, and stop being so polite. Otherwise we are going to have an education system which is built by politicians and businesspeople.


Constructivist at Heart

9 09 2008

I always knew I was different.  I just didn’t have a name for it until I took ETEC 530.  One of the things that bothered me the most when I started teaching was the expectation of students to have the teacher “give them the answer.”  When I would ask students to formulate an opinion or an idea on their own based on what they already knew I would be met with blank stares.  When I asked questions that didn’t have “right” answers, more of the same. One of the most interesting things about this class was the way the whole class was structured to “walk the talk.”  My online Color Book Lesson was inspired by fellow students, who happily edited, and made suggestions for improvement.  I’ll post more when I actually try it with kids!

Learning Theories Map

4 09 2008

Personal Learning Theory – an Ever Changing Entity

4 09 2008

My personal learning theory is contingent on what is being learned, and what the goal of learning is.  I don’t think that a single theory can account for all aspects of human learning. There are some basic tenets that overarch all the pieces of my theory: a safe environment, a basic understanding of culture, and a belief that teaching and learning cannot be separated.

For some types of learning, structure is important.  Experience has shown me that children do have developmental ages at which certain things can be learned more readily.  These ages are not an arbitrary calendar age, but are dependent on learning other concepts in a logical, sequenced way and vary from child to child.  For some types of learning, building on prior knowledge is critical to success.  We need to push the envelope regularly and introduce new concepts to move development forward.

For other types of learning structure is less important. We learn best when we need to.  Learners need to be allowed to solve problems on their own and make mistakes.  Constructing what we learn because of the situations we are in makes learning purposeful, authentic and meaningful. But much more important than abstract theories about how learning works is real world experience and feedback about pedagogy that actually works in a classroom.

In today’s world making connections and decision making is becoming more and more important with the vast amount of information that is available on the internet. Knowing where to find information, evaluate its reliability and context and then put the found information to use in solving problems or constructing a rich, accurate and useful mental model is very important.

In conclusion, I believe that all learning must have a goal.  It may be practical or more knowledge based but in the end it is our motivation and the decisions we make along the way that cause us to learn.