Posted by: arieliondotcom | November 15, 2008

PAPER 3: Fleeing the Planet of Past Pedagogies

A father kisses his infant son goodbye as he wraps him in blankets (red, white and blue blankets…who knew?!), tenderly places him in a tiny spaceship, and sends him away from their doomed planet into space to find a new home on a distant, foreign world. Most people recognize that as the origins of Superman, the infant grown up who, adopted by loving farmer parents, will use what were normal powers at home and super-powers on earth, to preserve Truth, Justice, the American Way (and all those other objective values some folks hate).

The pedagogies of the past are crumbling and the world of education as we know it is in chaos. The natural inclination of human beings to connect, so long encased in institutionalization, are suddenly erupting. The power models are crumbling. The foundations of expertise and methodology are become molten and initiative and natural learning through seeking information on one’s own are bursting out of every student’s pocket cell phone, desktop computer and internet-enabled video game.

Educators today must overcome the restraints that have been trained into them from childhood as methods of learning and since college as being education skills. This cannot be done by trying to build upon what has already been proven to be unworkable. A whole new world of education is needed, an entire shift back to natural connections of information sources
networked into natural knowledge sharing. This can only happen if we turn away from what we are comfortable with and venture out into a whole new world, like that infant in that spaceship finding a new home.
The technology of today is an enabler, just a tool, like that spaceship, to take the educators of today to new ways of teaching, assessment and accreditation that we can’t even conceive of today.

I know that Connectivism is works as a learning system because, as I’ve shown through these blog posts throughout the course, they can be demonstrated as the method GOD Himself used to convey knowledge of HImself to us through connecting to Him and to others who know about Him, sharing information and sparking knowledge. But also because I, who knew next to nothing about learning theories, have been able to connect to other members of the course who already have connections to the proponents of those theories. I don’t need to retain that knowledge because it is in those folks with whom I connect now (and hope to continue to connect in the future, in different ways as we and our contexts and content change). I have literally been able to go to other worlds (Second Life) because of such connections and to foster continued frontiers of Connectivism there because of my ties, both loose and strong, to those with strong ties to that world.

And that is the key to the future of education, living out Connectivism. Society and its insitutions are built on self-preservation and self-perpetuation (publish or perish, I had to have credentials and so do you). But there are those who see that society of education cannot last. The Nancy Whites of the world who, when asked “What shall we do to change institutions?” says “Be a Connectivist.” The Stephen Downes of the world who say “I don’t care about the institutions. I care about the learners.” These are the people who realize the present constructs are doomed and that the only way to inculcate Connectivism is to send our children to the stars of a new world we don’t know ourselves by teaching them Connectivist skills. and letting them make connections of their own, now and in the future.

The technology is only a tool, like that space ship. What matters is where it will bring those around us influenced by our own examples, and the connections we’ve made to them and allowed them to make. Superman’s strength wasn’t revealed in becoming Clark Kent. It was revealed in doing what he did naturally as a Kryptonian that only seemed special and attractive to those he connected with because they didn’t know how he did it. Christian missions didn’t convert people by teaching them the Bible but by living out Christianity among them, by BEING Christians. It requires passing from epistemology, the study of theories about knowledge, to being living examples of the knowledge connections enable and enabling connections with and to others.

When asked to give an example of literacy (how to choose which connections, which information, is most useful for a particular task or purpose) Stephen Downes gave the analogy of hunting for a diamond necklace in a forest. Looking for the shiny things helped focus past the dull leaves toward the true objective. Connectivist educators living out Connectivism will teach their students to look for diamond necklaces, and as the students observe their educators’ connectivist ways, they will apply them to other content and other contexts throughout their lives. Downes also said it was necessary to have balance and that there’s a sort of dance that must be done because of the phenomenon of tailoring, tending toward those thoughts most like the ones you’ve previosly had rather than exposing yourself to new connections. Connectivist educators willl demonstrate this dance.

Superman had a natural ability to fly and to make diamonds by squeezing a piece of coal in his hands. Connectivist educators, practicing Connectivism as they can in the constraints of their present environment, and modelling it for others along the way, are like alien beings showing others how to dance through the woods and find diamond necklaces. Through the natural processes of demonstrating and learning connective networks, of Rhizomatic learning, emergence and chaos taking education in unheard of directions, a new world is being formed. Those in CCK08 are on the way to that world. Come dance with us through the forest of the stars.

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