Friday, September 12, 2008

Connectivism or Disconnectivism

My head hurts. It is day 5 of the connectivism course, and I have more disconnects than connects. I've been reading through the Moodle forums, specifically the skeptic thread. I strongly support challenging discourse and disagreement. However, I'm frustrated by the human tendency to over-simplify complex concepts and ideas. It's even more frustrating because I can't adamantly disagree with anyone at this point. All of the arguments have merit. I'm questioning everything - my educational philosophy, my profession, even the name of my blog and wiki.

The skeptic discussion thread includes a number of Web 2.0 criticisms. We tend to put every new web-related technology under the Web 2.0 umbrella. That's a mistake. I want to strike out the "Web 2.0" in my blog and just leave "Teach". At the same time, some of the so-called Web 2.0 tools have significant educational potential. Those of us who live in educational technology must continually remind ourselves that many of our colleagues do not. There has to be some guidance to help teachers navigate emerging tools and differentiate between those that facilitate learning and those that don't. I do not apologize for that. The tools are especially important if we are able to harness them to manage complex learning environments. Why bother? For one thing, our current system of education is not working, at least not for everyone. More importantly, I've seen a flash of light and I'm curious.

Professional experience at IBM in a socially networked environment and countless online courses in my graduate program have given me glimpses of earth shattering learning events, moments when concepts, contributions of others, and epiphanies collide on multiple levels - monumental a-ha's. How do I replicate that for my own students? Is it even possible to create an environment conducive to those experiences, or does it happen just as randomly with the help of technology as it does in a face-to-face classroom? I'm not sure, but those brief moments are what I hope to capture. My interest in connectivism is rooted deeply in the quest for understanding those "connected" moments.

I see the tools of technology as future potential to manage those moments. We're not there yet. The contributions of over 2000 participants in this course are confusing, overwhelming, and uncomfortable. I have to keep walking away. Then again, they certainly have me thinking.

1 comment:

George Siemens said...

Hi Wendy. Sorry about your headache!

Doesn't every successful learning experience (at least where we are challenged) follow almost a story-like theme? i.e. introduction, action/activity, conflict, resolution. Learning - especially "big ideas" can be a struggle.

I've certainly been challenged with a few personal beliefs this week. While the tension is uncomfortable, it can be valuable.

With that said, and relying on Vygotsky's zone of proximal development, I hope you're not too challenged at this point. That is, I hope that aside from the tension, your experience of questioning will make you a more critical thinker and learner (as you suggest in your last paragraph). Having one's own beliefs challenge - and either validated or changed - can be a very illuminating experience.

Looking forward to your ongoing contributions :)