Friday, February 02, 2007

Connectivism Online Conference - George Siemens

I'm just now coming down from the heights of chaotic thought provoked by George Siemens' presentation via Elluminate on Connectivism. So there we were, 190 of us, worldwide, linked via web and focussed on listening to George - a trusted member of our network - share his thoughts and ideas with the connectees. And we were all exploring the same questions. Where are we in learning now, where are we going and how will we get there? What skills, provisions do we need on the journey?

Synaptic learning...moments of lucidity...sparks of recognition..a second of how it all fits then fading into ambiguity...excuse me while I kiss the sky; this is learning as it should be - shared, chaotic, questioned, reshared, ideation in process, not product "knowledge in stasis".

Riding through the connective and frugal heuristics, trying to deal with the demanding complexity of our world today, where our linear approach to learning is just not meeting the need. We need to change our interaction patterns, our definition of learning spaces, our focus on product not process - higher education has a lot of changes to make and it is one slow moving beast. But then again climate change drove us all to take a holistic look at our environmental reality and as a result it seems we are prepared to change our behaviour. Changes in higher learning may also be forthcoming - as crisis looms.

Knowledge today is complex, ever changing, and information is overabundant. Knowledge no longer resides in a place, in a brain, in one person or a cadre of experts - it is in the connections we make, our networks of learning. Technology is evolving and affords us the opportunity to connect and share. As our network grows it impacts upon our assumptions about learning infrastructures, about authority, and certainty of "knowing". We'll recognize that a textbook, a professor is a node not a touchstone. Textbooks and professors should not position themselves as experts who can claim to keep pace with the changing face of knowledge - but they can guide us, can provide trusted nodes, a framework, a foundation and skill set that enables and maximizes our learning journey.

Where does knowledge reside in institutions? When is it made available? Journals that few people read, that few people can access. Articles that get refereed by a few experts then disseminated to a small audience usually bound by the blinkers of their discipline. This is not ideation - a fast response to the changing face of knowledge and a recognition of worldwide realities and contextualities.

Institutional approaches are not in line with the rapidity of knowledge development. Containers of learning - courses, professors, textbooks - confined to a space - university - and bounded by time and pace restrictions are not appropriate for this journey.

This learning journey will be troubling, chaotic, fraught with cognitive dangers - and we need to teach new skills to prepare our students, and our professors. We need to have them understand that learning is not a product but a process. That learning is not a place it is a journey. That we have to move from knowing to knowing where, to sense making, and need to learn to apply what we learn to actually learn. The power of the web, the social networking available, and the filtering, tagging, bookmarking tools will help us connect and increase the pace of our sense making .

The chaos and messiness of global networking is seeping into the classroom and higher education is in denial. Guess what? It's going to bite them soon enough thanks to the pace that the lower grade teachers are moving at -using blogs and social networking with their students - the future attendees of universities. These kids will be coming to university with expectations -and skills most professors will not recognize. These kids will have had years of pattern recognition, network formation and evaluation, have exercised critical/creative thinking (collaborate, create and recreate) and learned to accept uncertainty/ambiguity of holistic learning and a recognition that contextually, there is no right answer, their is only the formulation of new ways of thinking.

Is the space, place, pace and minds of the university ready for these kids? Not by a long shot. But maybe, like global warming, higher education will have a crisis to respond to and they might just change. Or perhaps the kids won't care - they'll have other opportunities for their learning journey.

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