Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Networked Student with Transcript

A few people have requested a transcript for The Networked Student. You can access the transcript here.

The Networked Student is free for you to use in any way that is helpful to you. I would really appreciate any feedback you have or receive about the concept of the networked student.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

CCK08-Connectivism: Networked Student...The Movie

YouTube version for sharing
(Please share, reuse, redistribute, especially with administrators, teachers, and parents.)

As a grand finale for the Connectivism course, George asked participants to respond to the following questions:
  1. What is the quality of my learning networks: diversity, depth, how connected am I?
  2. How has this course influence my view of the process of learning (assuming, of course, that it has)?
  3. What types of questions are still outstanding?
  4. How can you incorporate connectivist principles in your design and delivery of learning?
Questions 2 and 4 are addressed in the video above. The presented scenario is definitely not a complete picture of connectivism. I think it's a good start for a k12 classroom. I view the work with my students as networked learning incubation.

I had great fun creating this video. My 15 year old son, Alex, helped with the artwork and voice over. My high school students are currently working on the project that is highlighted in the video. I owe a big thank you to Lee LeFever of CommonCraft. He kindly gave me permission to use the "Plain English" format for my project. I absolutely love the brilliant simplicity of his work.

I sincerely hope that other teachers will use the video to help colleagues, parents, and students understand the potential of networked learning.

On to questions 1 and 3...
I managed a fairly robust learning network prior to taking the connectivism course. But, I believe I'm taking a more thoughtful approach as a result of this experience. I'm reaching out to those with whom I already have a professional relationship, building new contacts, and trying harder to seek out points of view that differ from mine. I hope that the visibility of CCK08 will facilitate more research and testing of Connectivism as a theory of learning. The biggest question in my mind is whether the theory is powerful enough to have a real impact on main stream education. I see a lot of potential obstacles, especially with younger children. I'm also contemplating the best strategy for strengthening network ties and developing deeper professional contacts for learning and sharing.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

CCK08-Connecting the Concept Map

I've been posting concept maps for each of the topics covered in the CCK08 Connectivism Course. It's time to pull it all together. Drum roll please...

I need to have this in poster format so I can read it all at once. There must be some site out there that will turn this into a poster for me. Hmmm.

CCK08-Changing Space and Structure

Everything is connected. I find the day-to-day connectedness of life interesting. Think about it. You give your child a unique name. First time at a birthday party, two other kids have the same name. You buy a new car and run into identical models everywhere. You learn a new word and suddenly the whole world is using it, too. It's not that these things didn't exist before. You just weren't paying attention. This happens to me again and again in my personal network, tiny coincidences that really aren't coincidence at all. Such experiences are actually the unveiling of connections that reflect those moments where our paths intersect. I recently blogged about Scott McLeod's perception of Clayton Christensen's concept of disruptive innovation. (See the bread crumb trail here?) To my surprise, it appeared again in this week's CCK08 readings. Knowledge diffuses like a forest fire, moving in numerous directions, sometimes jumping roads to burn a whole new path.

Schools, by their structure, contain the fire. Closed classrooms contain knowledge by limiting access to available information, investing everything in the one teacher/one text model, and bureaucratizing the system in the name of accountability, thus making change nearly impossible. It is perfectly clear to me that changing the educational system will require a whole new paradigm of structure and space.

What will this new space look like? Will all learning take place online, or will we build blended connected environments that include small meetings of face-t0-face participants? Will the innovations made possible by new technologies be powerful enough to change an educational system that has managed to survive virtually all past technological advancements since the pencil? Will some of us have to start from scratch with a whole new paradigm of learning space? The chances of making that happen within the current physical structure appear bleak, at best.

Monday, November 17, 2008

CCK08-Connectivism, Disruptive Innovation, and the Long Tail

Paper #3
In this reflection, I offer a personal perspective on connectivism concepts addressed in the past ten weeks. Three major components drove my learning experience. Instructors, George Siemens and Stephen Downes provided a solid foundation of theory and concepts. Colleagues in the course and those who have blogged in the past brought unique perspectives to the content. My personal journey through blogs, online video presentations, podcasts, synchronous meetings, various articles and relationships with colleagues and students further constructed my connective knowledge.

As a result, I see opportunities for education, especially in helping students build personal learning networks that will serve them in all learning endeavors. While the connectivism that George and Stephen envision is often spontaneous and self-directed, I believe students can initially benefit from a more organized approach. Once the foundation is built, independent learning will thrive.

The challenge lies in making this possible for all students, from elementary through higher education. New technologies with connective network potential are released on a near daily basis. Yet, few teachers take advantage of the most basic benefits of network technology such as Internet search and research strategies.

Why is it so difficult to change the practice of education?
I recently listened to the 21st Century Learning Podcast, Dr. Scott McLeod on Disruptive Innovation and the future of K12 Education. Scott compares schools to the corporations in Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma (1997). Christensen’s basic premise is that “time and time again almost all the organizations that have ‘died’ or been displaced from their industries (because of a new paradigm of customer offering) could see the disruption coming, but did nothing until it was too late” (12 Manage, 2008, pg. 1). Basically, corporations are not able to handle disruptive innovation from within. Such innovation is only possible through completely new business models or off-shoots of the business with autonomous management. The sober implication for schools is that existing systems are so entrenched in bureaucracies of current practice that they are not likely to change. Those of us who are trying to innovate from within are basically banging our heads against the wall. On the other hand, online, connected learning may provide opportunities to disengage from the institution of school as we know it.

What kinds of opportunities can we embrace if we are able to make fundamental and systemic changes?

We must rethink school, structure, and power. School is not necessarily textbooks, and standardized testing. It doesn’t have to be a brick building, six or seven periods a day, and desks in rows. Teachers do not have to control the learning process. If we empower the learner and provide him or her with the resources necessary to embark on effective connective journeys, we’ll have a vehicle for innovation.

What can we learn from voices of resistance?
Resistance is good. Any new theory, or idea for that matter, needs vetting to fully develop and improve. Open-minded skepticism is healthy because it encourages creativity. There will be those who never change. However, our response to their arguments adds to the foundation on which we build a solid learning network. Learning may look different in a connective environment, but some traditional learning principles may be valid in certain circumstances. Resistance will help us evaluate those pedagogies and how they apply.

I see our current world of weak ties and easy connections as the long tail of learning. John Seeley Brown suggests, “the challenge of 21st century education will be leveraging the abundant resources of the web – this very long tail of interests – into a “circle of knowledge-building and sharing” (Brown, 2007). Success will depend on our ability to change our role from all-knowing teacher to network learning guide.

Brown, J. (2007, January 30). MIT World » : Relearning Learning-Applying the Long Tail to Learning. Retrieved November 17, 2008, from

Christensen, C. (1997). Innovator's Dilemma: Introduction: (Why Companies Need to Understand and Manage the Forces of Disruptive Innovation). New York: Harvard Business School Press.

Christensen, C. (2008, November 8). Disruptive Innovation (Christensen). Retrieved November 17, 2008, from

Ragone, A. (2008, November 14). 21st Century Learning #84: Dr. Scott McLeod on Disruptive Innovation and the Future of K12 Education | EdTechTalk. Retrieved November 17, 2008, from

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Networked Student Revision B

Thank you for more valuable feedback on the Networked Student Diagram. A special shout out to Jon Becker for this visual suggestion.
Cindy Lane
suggested that coworkers be added to contacts. She reminded me that many older students have part time jobs or internships.

Here's the update with their input and a few of my changes. I removed the subcategories under social networking and placed it under RSS. You'll see that the diagram is actually starting to look more like a network with RSS as a separate category, but also a subcategory of Information Management. I changed Direct Communication to Synchronous Communication and connected it to contacts, as well. Any more ideas?
Click on the graphic to enlarge.

The Networked Student Revision A

Thank you to everyone who offered feedback on the Networked Student so far. Changes to this revision include:
  • Remove reference to specific tools.
  • Include RSS under "Information Management"
  • Add MySpace and Facebook - Rather than single out these specific tools, I divided social networking into hobbies, formal learning, and socializing. There may be a better way to do this.
Please have a look at this new version and let me know what you think. Click on the graphic to enlarge.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Networked Student

Inspired by Alec Couros' vision of The Networked Teacher and participation in the Connectivism course, I've decided to experiment with student personal learning networks. I'm still in the process of brainstorming a concept map to represent the Networked Student. It's not especially pretty at this point, but I would so appreciate any feedback on the content!

Today, I kicked off a project with my Contemporary Issues class. Each student is selecting an issue for which they have a great interest. We're in the process of building personal learning networks one step at a time:
  1. Internet search tips
  2. Social Bookmarking - Set up account
  3. RSS - Set up Google Reader, personal blog, podcast subscriptions, Google Alerts
  4. How to find an expert (to schedule Skype sessions with our class)
  5. Hoping to hold it all together with iGoogle Page and/or personal wiki
Students already have Google Docs accounts, so it seemed easier to keep with the Google tools.

For the selected topic, students will:
  • Follow at least 5 blogs (hopefully more)
  • Create a personal blog and reflect at least twice/wk
  • Maintain and share bookmarks on the topic
  • Facilitate discussions in our face-to-face meetings
  • Subscribe to podcasts if available for the topic
  • Schedule a Skype session with an expert in the field
  • Create a final product that can be posted to share with others (e.g.: wiki, ning, slideshare, Voice Thread, video)
A purely connectivist approach would not mandate each of these tasks. Students would be free to navigate their learning network according to individual needs. However, my students still find great comfort in structure. This is their first venture into online learning. We'll see how they venture on their own once I nudge them out of the nest. :-)

What am I missing? If you've done this before, what worked or didn't work for your students? Anything you would add? Ideas?

CCK08-Who is Teacher in a Connectivist Framework?

Changing roles of educators
Teacher roles and responsibilities are changing on a number of fronts. The accountability movement, especially in the United States, has placed considerably more responsibility on the teacher in the form of standardization of content, evaluation, and documentation of student achievement. Brain research is telling us more about child development and how humans learn, in addition to providing the means to identify auditory processing deficiencies, autism, attention deficit disorder and countless other exceptionalities. Government increasingly looks to education to solve complex social challenges. Meanwhile, technology evolves at such a frenetic pace that we barely have the chance to consider the educational value of one tool before another takes center stage. Teachers are continually asked to do more with the same or less resources. It’s easy to understand why they are overwhelmed. Some embrace these changes losing sleep over how to address them. Others find safety in their comfort zones. Ultimately, we will all have to come to terms with how these issues affect our roles as educators and learners.

Teaching and learning involves social interaction, even in the most traditional sense between teacher and student. Social technology “has fundamentally changed how we can be together” (White, 2008), so it seems natural to explore the potential impact of social networking on education and how it might change our roles. This reflection will focus specifically on the impact of connected learning on teacher roles. However, it is wise to consider implications to all of the issues listed above to further reflect on how networked teacher roles might address educational challenges beyond mere technological implications. Such is a topic for future study.

Appropriate responses to change
Teacher as entrepreneur
Teachers, by nature, take pride in their control and structure. Traditionally, this is how order is maintained. Control is further regarded as necessary to efficiently cover large quantities of content. However, managing change requires flexibility. Experimentation is essential in any dynamic environment. Effective responses to rapid change include an open mind, flexible attitude, and entrepreneurial spirit. Teachers, like their students, can learn a lot from their mistakes. Empowering students requires exchanging control for greater freedom. Greater freedom promotes positive risk taking on the part of both teacher and student. Everyone benefits. Let’s Talk Business, an online guide to business success, suggests that successful entrepreneurs are optimistic, tenacious, ethical, eager to listen and learn, confident, disciplined, and self-controlled (Prairie Public Television, n.d.). Imagine these qualities in a networked teacher, emphasis on self-controlled versus controlling.

Impediments to change
Teacher as change agent
Even in a storm of change, some teachers manage to maintain enough autonomy within the confines of classroom walls to escape administrative directives and avoid collegial pressure. Therefore, the networked teacher must assume the role of change agent. In many cases administrators are not familiar with connectivism and the potential of connected learning. The teacher as change agent possesses leadership qualities to be modeled by other teachers. He or she is a decision maker, one who doesn’t just use technology for its own sake but exhibits thoughtful applications of each new tool. Furthermore, change agents are confident, visionary, and persistent (Gwinn and Taffe, 2007). They will visit fellow colleagues one-on-one as much as necessary to influence their practice. One of Paul Skidmore’s characteristics of network leadership is helping people grow out of their comfort zones (Skidmore, 2006). The teacher as change agent helps others manage this shift.

Impact of current trends
Beyond skeptical colleagues, the networked teacher faces obstacles of limited time, contradicting pedagogy, unbalanced focus on accountability through testing, increased costs with lower budgets, and slow change at upper administrative levels. Yet emerging technologies are providing lower cost, efficient alternatives for building robust personal learning networks. As the trend toward less expensive computers, ever-expanding storage space, and user-friendly social networks continues, more educators will experiment with connected learning thereby exposing more students to its endless learning potential. Once students are empowered in this way, no one will be able to take that away.

What could be?
What does this mean for the networked, connected teacher? What new roles emerge? On his blog, Konrad Glogowski explains, “his classroom transformed itself from a place where knowledge was pre-packaged for students to a place where they are now given a responsibility of creating it, where they have to participate in existing networks (class blogosphere, for example), nurture their own (Furl or accounts, blogs), and look for connections” (Glogowski, 2005). He further identifies the point when he began teaching students to recognize and formulate connections and patterns as the point when he became a teacher of connectivism (Glogowski, 2005).

Konrad, Clarence Fisher, Alec Couros and others in my own personal learning network inspire me to take on new roles to make networked learning possible for my students. I’m about to embark on a 6-week connectivism project with my Contemporary Issues class. They will build a personal learning environment based on a topic for which they have great interest. I will take on a number of new roles including that of modeler, network administrator, curator, concierge, community leader, technology steward, information filter, Sherpa, researcher, change agent, learning entrepreneur, and evaluator. Some of these roles will be foreign and uncomfortable. But, I’m open minded, confident, ready to experiment, and prepared to learn from my mistakes. (See Concept Map in post below this one.)


Brown, J. (2008). How to Connect Technology and Passion in the Service of Learning. Chronicle of Higher Education, 55(8), 99.

Brown, J., & Adler, R. (2008). Minds on Fire. Educause, Jan/Feb, 17-32.

Cormier, D., Downes, S., & Siemens, G. (2008, November 7). CCK08 UStream Session Chat. Retrieved November 9, 2008, from

Entrepreneurship: Characteristics. (n.d.). Retrieved November 9, 2008, from

Glogowski, K. (2005, September 14). Teaching Connectivism blog of proximal development . Retrieved November 9, 2008, from

Gwinn, C., & Taffe, S. (2007). Integrating Literacy and Technology: Effective Practice for Grades K-6 (Tools for Teaching Literacy). New York: The Guilford Press.

Siemens, G. (2007, August 24). Connectivism Blog. Retrieved November 9, 2008, from

Skidmore, P. (2006). Leadership themes school leadership in the 21st century. Retrieved November 9, 2008, from

White, N. (2008, November 5). Full Circle Associates » Guesting with Connectivism & Connective Knowledge. Retrieved November 9, 2008, from

Sunday, November 9, 2008

CCK08 - The Changing Role of Teacher

This week in CCK08, we focused on changing teacher roles. As the concept map reflects, George Siemens, with the help of Stephen Downes, John Seeley Brown, and others offered a number of examples. Nancy White, our guest speaker on Wednesday, offered her views of emerging roles and practices. I'm going to address teacher roles in greater detail in my next post, but the concept map includes a few of my own contributions to the list.

On Friday, my school sponsored a professional development session facilitated by Dr. Joann Deak. She presented current research on the brain that might impact the way we teach. She was careful to focus only on well-documented research and peer-reviewed studies, and she guarded forcefully against hopping on the latest pop psychology band wagon. Almost immediately, teachers were thinking about the practical implications. It occurred to me that there is more influencing the role of teacher than just technology or social networking. The field of education overlaps nearly every other field of practice. Research is evolving at a break neck pace, and arguably all of it could impact effective instruction. This got me thinking about our responsibilities as educators. We've always been conduits of information, but we can't possibly be the keepers of all content, no matter how narrow our field of expertise. Neither can we pick and choose what is important for the learning needs of others. Rather, we become facilitators whose responsibility it is to guide others through the information filtering process. In order to do this we must also become expert researchers. The goal is not research for the purpose of regurgitation, but rather to teach the research process, how to find and filter information.