Day Two proved to be just as rewarding as the first day of ITSC.
After the bar had been set high by Jeff Utecht in the morning workshop, Scott McDonald and Scott Elias had work to do to impress, post-lunch. McDonald’s session was called “Making Meaningful Movies”, and focused on getting the most out of digital video-making assignments. Here are his tips:
At 3:45, Scott Elias led a session called “Creating and Maximizing Learning Networks”, which presented some important research behind why networked learning is so powerful. Scott is a new Middle School principal in Fort Collins, CO, planning research for a doctorate in networked learning, so he brought a real ethos to the conversation – not that a guy with nearly 3,000 followers and more than 16,000 Tweets needs more street cred.
Being in Scott’s session was like being a kid in a candy shop – everything he was saying resonated, and fit some of my strongest current interests about learning. But Scott pushed the envelope a little bit, as he asked us to challenge some trendy notions about social networking and learning. Take for example our discussion of “hyper-connectedness” (click the image):
Group consensus on this topic seemed to be that our “always on” connectedness is neither good nor bad, but a reality of life today. Perhaps the most important thing here is awareness of it, and attention to its consequences. It was a great topic for discussion, and one that Scott challenged us to take home to our colleagues.
Besides picking up some references to academic studies about learning and social networks, I left with some ideas for reflection:
“Information by itself is meaningless – Information only takes meaning in the context of the social practices of the communities that give it cultural life.” We pick up so many bits of data through our networks, but how much of it is out of context and consequently useless? Perhaps the constant stream of information coming at educators from their PLNs seems relevant (and perhaps it all is), but it lacks meaning unless we can recreate the conditions from which it originated. Further, how many of us have stopped a colleague in the hallway at school and said “I heard this from so-and-so on Twitter” only to see eyes glazing over? Lacking the contextual understanding of Twitter as more than sharing about dinner plans or Justin Bieber, information coming from tweets is often seen as irrelevant.
“To move from social networking to social learning requires that the learner knows his colleague’s knowledge is authoritative, valuable, and available when needed.” We assume that if we put students together in groups, whether online or face to face, that social learning will result. But the truth is that the learners must be willing to “hear” and retain what their colleagues share. That means relationships of common interests and practices must be fostered and maintained. Of course, this is no different than what we know of pre-online networking. And consider this in light of the typical Professional Development events for teachers – some obvious insights here for why those events often seem like wasted time! (we considered the characteristics of good PD via chalkboard – click the image below)
“People are using technology to get what they need from each other, often bypassing traditional institutions and systems.” How much more obvious can this be than in 2011 with at least two political regimes falling in North Africa via the power of social networking? People will get the information they want via their online networks regardless of our efforts to prevent them. So what are the implications for teaching? Do we really believe that we can be the gatekeepers of information? Can we prevent students from reading, seeing, or creating media? No way. Take the other side of the coin – our access to information is limited only by the size of our networks. As our online networks grow, virtually all human knowledge is available quickly and cheaply (“the cost of information is fast approaching zero” ~@scottelias). Gone are the days when certain privileged groups held access to the power that knowledge brings. As should be obvious, democratization follows.
Another great day at #ITSC11. As you can see, this conference is not about technology.
Thanks for reading. I welcome your comments.