This is my first post regarding the Connectivism and Connected Learning (CCK) course. The course is a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) facilitated by the Connectivist gurus Stephen Downes (@Downes) and George Siemens (@gsiemes). It’s like learning about Math from Euler or Fermat. You can find out more about the course if you want to jump in to the course, find out more about Connectivism, or what a MOOC is at http://cck12.mooc.ca
If you are reading this and you have never heard of Connectivism, please read about it first.
As I write this, I have just finished participating in my first live web session for CCK12. I found the meeting helpful. I have taken an online course before (but not a MOOC) and I think the meeting is useful to feel connected (see what I did there) to the course, its participants, and the facilitators. It was also a chance to hear a bit of a different take on some of the explanations of Connectivism. This was helpful since this week I have been reading a lot of posts, research, and opinions on Connenctivism, and to be honest it was a bit overwhelming. This is not for a lack of explanation, but in my mind, the complexity of the topic. If you combine that with a rusty knowledge and vocabulary of learning theories, you create your own tidal wave of reading and information.
One of the things in my own personal and professional development that has been great, is that just before Christmas I began reading The Connected Educator by Sheryl Nussbaul-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall. I plan on writing a full review when I finish, but in the meantime, I can say that the the book is excellent. Why I bring this up, is that the practices of teacher professional development (PD) explained in The Connected Educator flows nicely with a Connectivist view of learning. I thought about writing that the CCK12 course and getting the book was serendipitous, but that is inaccurate. These aren’t two events that happened both by chance. By following along with the activities and suggestions in the book, I discovered the CCK12 course offering. The book helps teachers to set up an network (infrastructure) of their own professional learning. In a short time my own Personal Learning Network has expanded greatly, and its usefulness has increased exponentially. Or perhaps more pragmatically, I can say that a PLN has become more than a education buzzword. Having (started to have) read the book, it has given me a bit of grounding in reality in terms of what Connectivism is, as well as what it looks like, and how it is experienced.
My own experience with becoming more connected, and using that connectedness to drive my learning (or perhaps the lens from which to view), has been powerfully useful. The understanding has been created within the network has already been more practically useful for my teaching practice than so many traditional professional development activities. One of the things that Stephen brought up in the web meeting (that I will paraphrase) is that the learning: “Is not a magnification of the individuals knowledge. It was created as though it is a crystallization of the group. Not as if, where adding more carbon makes it more carbon-y, but rather it crystallizes into something new.”
One thing that I look forward to is seeing how a deeper understanding of Connectivism can change my teaching practises. It has certainly already changed my view of my own learning. But that is quite different from shaping my teaching directly. So my learning has been shaped by focusing on a connected development network by bringing in the collective experience of other educators, researchers, authors and experts. And my learning has begun to shape my teaching. But that is my learning. My learning is inherently self directed. My student’s is not. They have certain concepts that they have to learn under our current system. If a student isn’t drawn to learning about Algebra, we can’t learn about butterflies.