Sunday, September 21, 2008

Challenges, gardens, and growing CCK08

Intuition, gut feeling—have guided me throughout my professional life as an educator. Often, I was acutely aware that I lacked a sophisticated level of thinking or knowledge of theory or philosophy to support my actions. I was one of those teachers to whom Downes referred; I was about process and doing. I was and am frequently surprised when reading and research validated(s) those feelings.

Although her context was somewhat different, Barbara Ganley eloquently asks and answers my question:
“Why, then, am I worried about all of this? Because it’s too easy to stay in places I like and listen to people I admire and leave it at that. It’s too easy to slip into smugness, to be self-congratulatory.”
So late now in my life, challenging myself to understand more deeply, I’ve moved out of my comfort zone into the transparency of connectedness and connected learning seeking that knowledge. That I’ve found colleagues who have articulated this challenge of uncomfortableness (and I totally recognize that they are in a different place on this journey), I thank you-- for you’ve contributed to my moving forward.
“I think we’re all still learning how to be connected, …and where our comfort level begins to stray into uncomfortable territory.” –Fleep
“If I decide to participate publicly in a class with 2000 students enrolled, a “massively open online course”, what is the price? …the “price is transparency”. I suspect that’s a clue to my hesitation. …do you worry that someone else will have already posted every thought you have and so why should you bother? What is the CCK08 course costing you?” –Wendy
Wendy, I suspect increasing transparency is the price for me, although I’ve not been worried that others will already have posted; I have hesitated as I read complex writings by learners who are far more expert than I- What silliness on my part— the connected learning in this course, the beauty is —that “one size does not fit all” –that our varied experiences contribute to our varied understandings –that connecting these understandings to where I now am can lead to better connections and deeper connected learning. And it’s been through colleagues in this course that I’ve come to realize that so much more fully:
“One might think that the disagreements in our individual responses to the theory of connectivism might be due to the fact we've read different things, or that we've read things differently; but I now suspect that our diverse understandings are directly the result of our varied 'prior experiences'. After all, we have to 'connect' these new ideas, to existing understandings.” --The Clever Sheep
“What I'm able to connect with first will depend on my existing conditions and context. A node that's right next to me and I can clearly relate to will enable me to make a conceptual leap in understanding, which will then facilitate another, and another until eventually I've come to realise a far greater understanding of the subject that I possibly could have without the nodes present. You might say they act as a roadmap for learning perhaps.” --Mike Bogle
Keith’s closing sentence of his “Grounded Post” really resonated with me:
“I think the course is like my garden … blossoming through difference and sameness.”

I’d been out in my gardens, though it’s not spring here, but fall— so instead of blossoming, there’s fading with that similar difference and sameness. The course and the garden do share that connectedness. And for me, not only that connectedness, but also connections to my ferns that are fast fading and the mint in the veggie garden which is blooming in places I’d not suspected. There it was— distributed, rhizomes, nodes, growing, making connections. I looked at these plants and the readings with new perspective and understandings. Some seven years ago, a friend shared a node of a fern plant that I lovingly planted on the shady side of our home. This year I actually had to decide whether to enlarge the bed or pull out some of the many new nodes (I enlarged the bed), taking time to notice clearly for the first time how the fern grew. The small mint had been carefully planted in the veggie garden two years ago. It has distributed itself from one end of the fence to the other across the back, connected, still growing.

As with me, I’ve connected with new nodes and am growing, having passed through new seasons of my life, though some more dormant than others. This weeks’ major course concepts now somewhat more clear (and I anticipate further learning as I continue to reach out to nodes of various networks) because of the connections.

One view --that knowledge is obtained from the network.

Another that knowledge is produced by a network (downes) --that
“connective knowledge is knowledge OF the connections that exist in the world. It is knowledge about how such connections are created, and what impact, or effect, such a system of connections has. It is knowledge about how we see such connections, how we observe them, and how we observe their results. …connectivism is a new type of knowledge, but it is not independent of other types of knowledge. We need to be able to see connections, and we need to be able to count them, in order to talk about them” --Downes
And lastly the view that:
“curriculum is not driven by predefined inputs from experts; it is constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process. This community acts as the curriculum, spontaneously shaping, constructing, and reconstructing itself and the subject of its learning in the same way that the rhizome responds to changing environmental conditions

In a sense, the rhizomatic viewpoint returns the concept of knowledge to its earliest roots. Suggesting that a distributed negotiation of knowledge can allow a community of people to legitimize the work they are doing among themselves and for each member of the group, the rhizomatic model dispenses with the need for external validation of knowledge, either by an expert or by a constructed curriculum. Knowledge can again be judged by the old standards of "I can" and "I recognize." If a given bit of information is recognized as useful to the community or proves itself able to do something, it can be counted as knowledge. The community, then, has the power to create knowledge within a given context and leave that knowledge as a new node connected to the rest of the network.” --Cormier
Each of these suggests to me, if I’ve understood correctly--distributed, diverse, autonomous, connected, open learning which I find particularly appealing and applicable to my practice. When Downes suggested the pedagogy that flows from these concepts --of teacher demonstration and modeling with student practice and reflection, it totally resonated with me! I’ve done that! Another clear connection –my experiences in national board certification late in my classroom journey had assisted me in concluding much the same--- And when he continued:
“Learning, in other words, occurs in communities, where the practice of learning is the participation in the community. A learning activity is, in essence, a conversation undertaken between the learner and other members of the community. This conversation, in the web 2.0 era, consists not only of words but of images, video, multimedia and more. This conversation forms a rich tapestry of resources, dynamic and interconnected, created not only by experts but by all members of the community, including learners.” --Downes
my level of excitement rose and I made the connections to the learning and work I’ve been and will be doing (I am so very honored and humbled) with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach regarding online communities of practice! I do believe the word tapestry truly paints a picture that represents Downes’ thoughts; I’d rather though refer to changing “landscapes” that flow with the seasons, with the growth of new nodes for the ferns and the mint, that nurtured by expert and novice participation, connect to new networks and yet unknown possibilities for growth--

Just in this writing, my connectedness has grown and my view of the changing landscape has altered-- As more leaves fall here and the ferns brown and collapse in preparation for sleep only to grow in the spring, I eagerly anticipate the growth I’ll experience through the nodes I’ll connect to in the weeks to come with this new spring of my learning--
Photo credit


Keith Lyons said...

What a wonderful synthesis, Lani. I really enjoyed reading this post.

jennip said...

Hi Lani
I just wanted to let you know that I loved your post. Your garden analogy is fantastic and resonated with me.

Like you I have come to the theory of learning later in life and was pleased to discover that what I was doing (by gut feeling) was underpinned by research.

I am currently doing a total overhaul of my garden and it is currently a mess but today we brought a little bit of order to the chaos we had created.

Your blog made me realise that I first need to create (or indulge in?) a bit of chaos before I can start to change and bring a little order to my learning.

Thank you, I hope we connect again!

Heidi Ashbaugh said...

I love how you have put so much information together! And, it is nice to hear from someone with many of the same characteristics as me: gardner, instructional designer, non-traditional thinker. ;-)

Tracey Mac Gowan said...

What a lovely post, Lani, thank you for giving us all a window into your internal garden -- the newly planted beds, as well as, the long tended ones.

I love the garden world -- the beautiful and sometimes chaotic,creation and recreation of it all. Isn't it wonderful to be a part of it!

kind regards,

Maru said...

Hi Lani!
Thanks for your post, what a beautiful way to express your learning journey. I loved the metaphor of your garden.

I am learning how to post, among other things. Your post is a good example of how I would like to post, I usually write to myself and I moved that habit to my blog.

I was glad to find resonance with your words and to find that you quote some of the people I follow.
I am striving to find a community within the wide CCK08 network, I want to move towards the center.

Love: Maru

WWSIWYG said...

I also must thank you for your beautiful post. It is inspiring to see someone extend something that was so nebulous in mind into a more comprehensive and concrete analogy. Thank you for making the effort and therefore allowing me to grow a new node in this massive experience.

Regrettably, my desire to be a good gardener has always far exceeded my ability. Is it wrong to home my gardening capability will improve as a result of my study of connectivism? I do hope we can connect again.