Saturday, September 13, 2008

Powerful modeling, metaphors and connections CCK08

Upon quelling my initial panic (thank you Anne!), I began to approach this new learning opportunity with less trepidation finding that attention to the powerful model of the course itself, adoption/adaption of the metaphors that surfaced in various responses, and discovering new connections -- resulted in a landscape that was not entirely foreign and thus not so forbidding to me.

Stephen Downes (“That’s Week One in the Record Books”) comment at the end of the week really resonated with me as those were my thoughts as I began:
“I want to move slowly, certainly, through the basic ideas, not arguing for them so much as letting the idea make their own case for themselves. We’ll see. This is a fun and extraordinarily fascinating process, yet not without its challenges.”
I began to attend to the model the course itself so powerfully illustrates as I examined the suggested readings and collected passages that I knew I’d want to access again. Pasting these down here to help me with future connections:
"Hence, in connectivism, there is no real concept of transferring knowledge, making knowledge, or building knowledge. Rather, the activities we undertake when we conduct practices in order to learn are more like growing or developing ourselves and our society in certain (connected) ways.

This implies a pedagogy that (a) seeks to describe 'successful' networks (as identified by their properties, which I have characterized as diversity, autonomy, openness, and connectivity) and (b) seeks to describe the practices that lead to such networks, both in the individual and in society (which I have characterized as modeling and demonstration (on the part of a teacher) and practice and reflection (on the part of a learner))." Stephen Downes (Important to me as I’m feeling here is where George and Stephen’s course design both model and demonstrate key properties of connectivism-- diversity, autonomy, openness, and connectivity )
"Connectivism finds its roots in the climate of abundance, rapid change, diverse information sources and perspectives, and the critical need to find a way to filter and make sense of the chaos." George Siemens

"Instead of knowledge residing only in the mind of an individual, knowledge resides in a distributed manner across a network. Instead of approaching learning as schematic formation structures, learning is the act of recognizing patterns shaped by complex networks.

Previous conceptions of learning rested heavily on information and knowledge acquisition. The fundamental need of learning in our society has changed. Due to rapid growth of knowledge, the act of learning has shifted from acquisition to assimilation, from understanding of individual elements to comprehending an entire space and, thereby, understanding how elements connect.

Making sense of this complex conversation requires a shift to alternative models of management. It is at this stage that technology is beginning to play its greatest role; one that will continue to grow in prominence as knowledge grows in complexity. Learning, augmented by technology, permits the assimilation and expression of knowledge elements in a manner that enables understanding not possible without technology." George Siemens
The course model led me to the responses that suggested value in using metaphors to describe connectivism and learning. I’ve personally found that metaphors have been very worthwhile in my learning and this week was no exception. Some metaphors offered for consideration by course colleagues (and new connections) helped me as I attempt to wrap my brain around the concepts this week:
“Just enjoying a walk in the wood, one, two, many times and go where you see something you like. With the passing of time you will know that wood in your own way.” Andreas Formiconi
“I am not so comfortable with a fixed definition. Furthermore, I think its most interesting aspects are not only being a theory of learning, but offering a whole new view for much more. And all of these aspects have in common that they can be illustrated by the neural metaphor.” Matthias Melcher
“If you’re connecting it to existing knowledge, isn’t that sort of like a new branch growing from an existing tree? I’m not sure it’s clear here, but from Downes’ other writing, I think this is more about it growing internally, driven by the learner, rather than constructed externally. I admit I struggle with this metaphor though, and I’m not sure I quite get what he’s saying. I don’t think Downes would deny that learning can be work, but he would likely characterize that work as growing rather than building.” Christy Tucker
“And I think that’s why the metaphors matter–the metaphor we use to understand learning influences the language with which we talk about learning, teaching, and education.

So what language would we use if our central metaphor for learning was “growing” rather than “building”? Would we say we nurture instead of scaffold? Connect instead of bridge? Feed instead of support? Deeper roots instead of a solid foundation?
What metaphor for learning makes the most sense to you? How does it affect the language you use when you talk about learning?” Christy Tucker
The neural metaphor makes sense to me; I love the walk in the woods! And the “growing” metaphor strikes a real chord with me. In response to Christy, from one who has frequently, yes often, used “construct” and “scaffold”, I agree the metaphor matters. I know that “growing” really appeals to the amateur gardener in me and I’m feeling that “growing” gets to the core of how I see learning. In addition, “nurturing” speaks to what I see as a more human side of learning (as opposed to the current state of testing and how it impacts youngsters in the US). Nurturing-- I like that. Dewey’s:
"What avail is it to win prescribed amounts of information about geography and history, to win the ability to read and write, if in the process the individual loses his own soul."
– that speaks to nurturing-- Hmmm, is this the making of connections? connections to that with which I’m familiar and growing my constructivist leanings to adapt/evolve/develop understandings more appropriate to the “.. the climate of abundance, rapid change, diverse information sources and perspectives, and the critical need to find a way to filter and make sense of the chaos.” (Siemens, cited above) I’m wondering if “cultivate” rather than “support” might be a beneficial extension of the “growing” metaphor? Would that language create connections for you?

In addition to the connections established by the metaphors, Antonio Fini articulated what I had begun to realize, that, albeit not in the scope nor magnitude of many, I have become immersed in some networks and been connected in these last four years. I’ve read, and followed links and engaged in conversation – connections that have nurtured and cultivated growth/learning.

And as Alan Levine notes:
“there is the interesting part to chew on. I have to acknowledge I work on a base of many things I have stuffed into my memory; it does not always come from the cloud. So it cannot be all connectivism all the time. There is some foundation the ability to connect rides on.”
Perhaps, (extending the growing metaphor again) there needs some time for “composting” this abundant information – might this organic process yield richer connections and ideas for deeper understanding and learning in the weeks to come?

Photo Credit


christytucker said...

Ooh, cultivate is a much better word! Thank you! I was trying to stay away from "fertilize," which had actually been my first thought. :)

I agree that the metaphor of growing and draws on Dewey and earlier progressive educators. I think the idea of learning as growing could be a more holistic approach, one that acknowledges that each person is different. Using the same blueprint multiple times can help you build identical buildings, but following the same lesson plan multiple times won't result in the same learning for every student.

The image is very appealing to me; this is definitely something I will continue to play around with. We have more walking in the woods ahead of us!

Lani said...

Hi Christy,

Thanks for the comment!

In this walk in the woods, I hope we take time at some point to seek strategies for persuading those who believe in blueprints to consider the importance of differences in people-- to consider as we are now the concept of connectedness and how that may help grow and cultivate every learner's full potential--