Posted by: arieliondotcom | October 30, 2008

The Third Rail and the Fifth Estate

In case you couldn’t tell from my obnoxious attitude, even in writing, I am from New York, as in New York, New York…You know, “the city that never sleeps.”  Specifically, the Bronx (pronounced “duh Bronx”), New York.  Just saying that, and knowing that I’m Italian, you can probably guess my age, because the Italian and Jewish population hasn’t inhabited the “stoops” (pillars beside cement staircases) and windowsills of the Bronx for several generations.  Since then several different populations and ethnicities have swept through and been swept out by other populations.  The last time I heard, the Bronx looked like bombed out Bagdad on a bad day.

If you know New York (especially of the previous days) you know of the subways, and if you know the subways you know the warning about “the third rail.”  From time to time you had to walk out of a stalled subway train, stuck underground.  And you had to avoid the third rail.  The third rail was where all the power was and, if you touched it the wrong way, it would kill you.

While reading and writing about the Power and Authority discussions in the Moodle, and the concerns specifically about how to apply Connectivism in the midst of legalities and the frailties of teaching K-12 students I suddenly had a realization.  There may be five estates of networks, but there are three rails of Connectivism to young students:  The school authorities (school board, legalities, etc.), the teacher, and the third rail, the parents.  Now those aren’t the only connections.  Students, like all children, like all human beings, will connect any way they are able, both randomly and intentionally.  But those three connections are for the life of a child.  (The school authorities affect graduations, etc. and the future of the child, the teacher will affect the child’s “take” on learning, and “taste” for the subjects being taught, and the parents will affect how well the child perceives and connects to the other two.) And the quality of the connection to the parents can literally (physically, through genetics) kill them.

It is this “third rail” connection with parents that empowers the child throughout life and will remain, for good or ill, an open connection through to death, either to be clung to, treasured, or avoided.  The teacher has the option of either enabling this connection to parental authority, or dismissing it to his or her peril and the peril of any connections that child will make in future with that teacher, with other children, and with the parents.

If a K-12 teacher (the controversial range being discussed most in the Moodle Forums by Tom Whyte and others) seeks to truly affect the child with the possibilities of Connectivism, the best answer will be to connect to the parents as part of the network.

Consider any Arena from Table 1 in the Dutton (Fifth Estate) article cited above and you will find some artifact of a parental opinion that will either attract or repel a child’s opinion of that arena and actions within that arena and the networked individuals and institutions of all estates thereof.

To inculcate Connectivism in the child it is necessary to deal with the child’s connection to the third rail. the parents, and to get those parents “on board” as much as possible in the child’s networks, both real and potential. Then, in the classroom under the auspices of the school system, the teacher can begin to allow connections that may flourish throughout the child’s life. The parents, though, in network with the teacher and the child, can strengthen those bonds and encourage new ones through the child’s home life, through play, socialization and routine.

I hope to expound on these things in the future. But for now, let me end with this: the greatest empowerment a child can have towards gaining information that sparks knowledge is the network between teacher and parent.

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