Thursday, 11 September 2008

Connectivism . . Interesting

I’m a button-clicker, a techno-fiddler, an action taker. Whenever I’m trying to learn new software or technology (or anything for that matter) I just go in and start clicking, tinkering and doing. No fear!

This is what I did when I first set up CRobi-Blog. There are pros and cons with taking this approach. You end up learning quickly and become more confident in your ability to problem solve and learn new skills. But sometimes you end up having to learn the same thing twice, once the action-taker way and once the book-reader way. (I can definitely relate with some of my students for this reason!) I set up the blog, tried a few things and then read up on blogs in my textbooks. Oh I had gleaned the basics from the texts, but I had only skimmed enough to get me started. I admit I did this on purpose, partly so I could experience the typical blogger’s anxiety and partly so I could experience the excitement. Let’s be honest here: most people setting up a blog for the first time don’t have a text book (or multiple texts) sitting on their coffee table waiting to be read when they hit a snag. I know my students certainly won’t and I thought it was only fair to experience just a little bit of what my students may feel when I ask them to start blogging.

Two things interested me in Will Richardson’s text (see his blog for more from Richardson). I guess the biggest thing I got from it is that blogging is connective writing and “truly a constructivist tool for learning” (p. 27, Richardson) which requires students to learn and use a whole new set of critical thinking skills. I find this very exciting. At first glance this seems like alot to take in, but after some reflection I don't think it seems overwhelming in the least. It just seems natural. Like it’s the way teaching and learning should be, and I’m starting to realize that this is the way I’ve always wanted to teach, but I just never knew how. I find I’m always looking for new ways to get my students to express themselves and participate in the class discussions. I’m always encouraging them to just get involved in something important to them, right now at this time in their lives, so they are ready to get involved as they become responsible adults. I’ve long been an advocate for focusing on the skills necessary to learn a content area rather than focusing on the content itself. Especially in an age when content is ever-changing and human kind is adding to their stores of knowledge at an incredible rate. This concept on connective writing may just be the way to achieve all these things. I’ll have to spend some more time reflecting on this and I’ll come back to it, I promise.

But in the mean time, I’ve decided to try writing in a more connective way. So I signed up for some blogs and news feeds on topics I’m interested in. Many were recommended by Richardson, one is by David Warlick the author of one of the books I’m reading, and my personal favourite find so far is Rick Mercer! I set up a Bloglines account and added a blogroll to my blog (as you can see --->).

(Apparently there is something really big going on at the University of Manitoba worth checking out regarding connectivism. Anne Davis writes her first impressions of it here. I have only just skimmed the site, yet another thing to revisit in a later post!))

Another thing that struck me is that Will Richardson suggests being a “public Blogger” (p. 47, Richardson). I had previously not posted my personal data or credentials, as my knee jerk reaction was to be careful about my privacy. He makes a really good argument for being a public Blogger though, when he talks about students learning to be critical readers of other’s blogs and using blogs as resources. He suggests that one of the ways to discern whether a Blogger is reputable & reliable is to check the blogger’s qualifications, profession, authority, etc. (p. 47). This made me think about what I would like others to get from my blog. I’m famous for sharing everything with my fellow teachers, and encouraging even the most self-conscious of my colleagues to do likewise. Of course I do want others to gain from my experiences both in learning about Web 2.0 tools and as a professional educator reflecting on learning and teaching. I realized I needed to let people know that I am actually qualified to be posting on these subjects (most of the time!) So I added my professional credentials and a bit about my professional interests to the “About Me” section.

Happy Connecting . . .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love the photos. I also checked out Mercer's blog which I had never looked at before. It's great and amusing and, sigh, so true.