As I read this week about Connectivism, something very natural resonated within me, mostly as a student. The highlights of Connectivism that resonated within me include the idea that one can learn in a course that is without content (by design), not because there is no content, but because there is a surplus of content, and the instructor is leaving it up to me to go out and find the content that resonates with me- that works for me or that I am passionate about. As a student, I am drawn to learning experiences where I can create, share, and make connections. That is authentic learning in my eyes. Funny that I should make the distinction that Connectivism resonated within me as a student, and not necessarily as a teacher. Upon reflection I realized that I used to have Connectivist tendencies, but Education-ese and things like NCLB sucked the Connectivist tendencies right out of me. Almost to the point that I didn't recognize them anymore. And then I began this Master's program, and I have been enjoying a sensation in teaching during the last two weeks that feels as though someone has taken the lid off of a box that I had been stuck in, and the breathing is easier- the moving is easier. That is to say, that through some of the ideals and activities in the very short time I have been a student in this program (coinciding with the hiring of a brilliant new principal who has Connectivist tendencies at the school where I teach) have somehow given me permission to lift the lid off the box and experiment. The air is fresher now.
I teach independent study high school students, so this week's question regarding the challenges of independent learning is something I contemplate and live every day. I think the challenge is to remember that independent learning refers to students learning independently. It doesn't necessarily imply that they are working independently exclusively, but the learning takes place largely independently. So even if I have students working collaboratively on a project, the rate at which they learn and the learning styles they each employ, can be vastly different. I've written about this before, but it takes a dedicated amount of empathy and attention to detail in terms of getting to know each student and what makes them tick. We all know that what works for one student doesn't necessarily work for another student. The challenge with independent learning is getting to know what each student needs and is seeking, and making sure that resources and guidance are available to each student in a way that meets their needs. Everyday I work with students who are working with the same curriculum in a particular grade level. Some need very little guidance from me, and are naturally resourceful when they get stuck on a concept. Others I must hand-hold for a majority of the semester until they finally begin to gain some confidence and core understanding in what we are working on. And that is ok. Students come to us from so many different backgrounds and life experiences. I fill in the gaps where I need to- sometimes drawing on particular skills I didn't think I would ever need in my role as an English teacher. It really is more about Life than about School- so my job as a teacher is to dig into my bag of tricks and pull out whatever it is I need to to assist a student in making connections, creating, and sharing. This week's reading about Connectivism reminds me that it is less about remembering content, and more about authentically creating and making connections that are lasting and make an impression- ultimately changing the learner for the better- leading him or her to be the kind of person he or she really wants to be. It's about connection and growth.
It's nice to be let out of the box. I like the view from here.
I appreciated the module 2 readings regarding the importance of, and selection and evaluation of digital interactivity tools in education. I was really engaged by Joseph R. Friedhoff's piece about the importance of educators evaluating digital tools to understand how particlular tools promote or constrain the desired learning outcomes. Friedhoff's explanation of the exploration of the proper tool for student reflection (threaded discussion or blog) was perfect for helping me to understand the sometimes subtle nuances that make a particular tool effective for a particular learning goal. It is vital that as a teacher I take the time to do that type of evaluation, and I have to start with a clear articulation of my learning goal for students. With that goal in mind, I have to look closely, not broadly, at the tools I consider, and ask myself which tool will help my students learn and demonstrate or express their learning in the most specific way possible.
With so many digital interactivity tools available, it can be an overwhelming task to choose one for a particular project or learning task. I appreciated how this module's Cool Tools assignment featured tools in categories, and the tools within each category usually had some features that differed from each other, offering options and limitations for particular tasks. I could see that certain tools would be better suited for certain projects. As a teacher who is relatively new to utilizing these types of tools, I would say that the area of evaluating digital interactivity tools is an area that I will need to stay focused on, and continue to grow in. Of course I'll do that by continuing to investigate tools, with learning outcomes in mind, and I'm sure I will experience a mixture of successful experiences with these tools, and instances where the use of a particular tool didn't lead my students to my desired learning outcome. When the latter happens, I will be sure to evaluate what about the tool was limiting to our learning outcome, and use my findings with that inquiry to help me select a tool that would better suit the learning goal.
This week's Edl 621 course information and assignments provided me the opportunity for personal realization of important details regarding digital interactivity tools and a chance to explore a variety of those tools. I enjoyed participating in the Cool Tools presentation, mostly because I benefited from the ideas and reflections my classmates provided as they exposed me to new tools.
Friedhoff, J. R. (2008). Reflecting on the Affordances and Constraints of Technologies and Their Impact on Pedagogical Goals. Journal of Computing In Teacher Education, 24(4), summer, 117-122. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ834074.pdf .
I've sort of lost count, but I think we just completed the third week of our program. I have adjusted to my new schedule pretty well, and am getting used to functioning on less sleep. Honestly, though, when my alarm goes off at dark-thirty am, I really don't mind getting up to jump into my schoolwork (as long as I remembered to set the coffee on automatic brew before I went to bed ...ZzZzZz...). What we are learning in Edl 621 and in Edl 630 is completely engaging. Not only that, but I am putting my learning into practice daily at Vista Visions Academy with my students. Three weeks in and I'm already doing things differently in my profession.
This week in my creative writing course we stopped, dropped, and created student blogs so that my students can share their beautiful work with a larger audience than just me. My students are having fun creating their pages and personalizing their sites. While I was at it, I created a Weebly site for my school's literary and creative arts magazine. We are a K-12 school, so I plan to collect writing, artwork, and music audio files and videos from our music classes for all the grade levels and upload them to the site. I really like this platform because it can be updated regularly, and we can include more than just text and still images. I plan to highlight a featured student or teacher artist each month on a blog on the magazine site as well. There is no artwork up yet, we haven't named the magazine yet, and I need to get rid of the stock images that came with the site, but that will happen next week. I also drafted a letter of parent permission for my students to submit some of their creative writing pieces to the "Reader's Write" section of The Sun magazine, which is a really cool art publication that I subscribe to. So that is pretty exciting. I'm eager to observe the experience my students have taking their work "live" to a real audience on the internet. I drafted some blogging guidelines for them as well, to help make it a smooth transition in our course.
So far I'm not having any troubles with our coursework. Just enjoying it and doing my best to stay up with our assignments. Ready for the next project!