CCK11: Educurator?

To fulfill Assignment 2 of the Connectivism & Connected Knowledge course

Connecting Curation and Education: Emerging Needs, New Model, Changing a Traditional Role

Teaching and learning are changing; as students in traditional schools engage in social media online, they leave some of their teachers far behind. Frankly, many teachers are resistant to using the technological tools that are available. But I agree with Dean Shareski that “to ignore or deem [Web 2.0 technology] superfluous is nearing educational malpractice” (2010). So here I wish to outline how I could apply some of the most helpful insights of connectivism in a real (potential) teaching space, a nontraditional learning experience in an Ohio town (USA). Children and their parents will understand the more-traditional descriptions of my role (teacher/tutor) and the offered learning opportunity (course/class) in response to an emerging need (computer knowledge) that the school system is unable to offer: In advertising, I will ask, “Is your child learning enough about technology?”1 But how I approach the experiences will, I hope, reformulate some of the traditional expectations and results. Also, it will be affordable to people who would normally believe “tutoring” is beyond their family’s budget.

Hence, Ohio Computer Tutor is gestating with connectivism in mind.2

As a teacher/tutor, I will

create the space where learning can happen. Literally, I need a physical space that will hold approximately 5–6 computer workstations and other equipment (like this). Figuratively, the space must be warm, open, welcoming, diverse, and not dismissive of learners’ experiences or backgrounds/identity (McPherson, 2008, p. 18: “Nodes are often easier to see for those doing empirical work, but these approaches can also miss larger systemic issues”). In addition, parents are welcomed into it as learners/teachers/cheerleaders.

create conditions that highlight know-how and “know-where.” Quick hit, short targeted flashcourses; one piece of one task is modeled. We emphasize how to find the skills you want to use (Siemens, 2005) and how to validate what you find (Cormier, 2008). I share and model my thinking so the search and evaluate process is transparent (and replicable). No learning opportunity is scheduled for more than one hour. If the learners stay for two hours, they are teaching each other while I am present (see below).

welcome learner interests. This may include actually making the following offer: if you find at least six kids who want to know this (skill, thing, technique), I’ll create a new learning opportunity for that group and any other learners who want to join. Or we’ll do it now.

curate materials that learners may not know. Many children in this area lack basic computer skills on traditional platforms and software, even as they text incessantly on smartphones. To start, I gather materials (traditional text, videos, modeling, blogs) that help us think about the task or that model some possible outcomes.3

model and demonstrate particular skills or approaches (Downes, 2006). As a skills-based learning experiment, the approach has elements of demonstration, but like a workshop approach only demonstrates briefly to get learners started on their own projects.

enable learners to reflect and practice those skills or approaches (Downes, 2006). Provide an enormous amount of time in the schedule when I am not talking but am wandering around looking at what the learners are up to.

allow learners to teach each other (and me). Following Sugata Mitra, I do not supply each child with one computer; instead, they pair and triple to learn together (or pair with a parent), pushing and nudging to make space (Mitra, 2010).

am extremely busy being present.  Most important to me: My role does not end at model and demonstrate. Teachers connect again and again. From a welcoming acceptance of learners’ experiments (like Sugata Mitra’s “granny cloud,” to an exploratory question at the right moment, to staying one step ahead of the chaos, an attentiveness to the network itself is part and parcel of the new educator. As Stephen Downes offers, “[B]e the sort of person you want your students to become” (2006, printed page 13). If I want students to become engaged, inquiring, and really smart, then that’s what I have to be, too. At the end of the day, the teacher in a networked, connected, distributed somewhat chaotic new learning environment should be exhausted.

Accomplishing this vision for Ohio Computer Tutor could mean producing slight ripples in the local system of education: I imagine things like schoolchildren wandering over to work together on a worksheet (gasp), helping teachers learn about interesting and useful tools such as Prezi and GoAnimate, offering ideas for how they could use the tools for assignments and homework, teaching each other informally…and dozens more scenarios than I can imagine.


References

Bouchard, P. (2011). Network promises and their implications. The impact of social networks on teaching and learning; Revista de Universidad y Sociedad del Conocimiento (RUSC), 8(1), 288–302.

Cormier, D. (2008). Rhizomatic education: Community as curriculum. Innovate, 4(5), article 550. Retrieved January 30, 2011, at http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=550

Downes, S. (2006). Learning networks and connective knowledge. IT Forum. Athens, GA: University of Georgia. Retrieved January 30, 2011, at http://it.coe.uga.edu/itforum/paper92/paper92.html

Downes, S. (2006). That group feeling. Half an Hour blog. Accessed January 31, 2011, at http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2006/10/that-group-feeling.html.

Downes, S. (2007). What connectivism is. Half an Hour blog. Accessed January 19, 2011, at http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2007/02/what-connectivism-is.html

McPherson, T. (2008). In T. McPherson (ed.), A rule set for the future. Digital youth, innovation, and the unexpected. The John D. and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1–26.

Mitra, S. (2010). The child-driven education. TED talks. Retrieved October 11, 2010, at http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html

Shareski, D. (2010). Sharing: The moral imperative. Preconference keynote at K12online 2010 Conference, Saskatchewan, Canada. Retrieved March 3, 2011, at http://k12onlineconference.org/?p=610

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1). Accessed January 18, 2011, at http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm


Notes

1 I need to leave aside for the moment the huge question of student motivation. Given that my spouse is an eighth grade (i.e., 13-year-olds) science teacher, I know a lot about the lack of student motivation in urban middle schools. However, I will also say that he has made some progress by introducing his better students to cool tools they can use (e.g., Prezi, GoAnimate) for their projects.

2 Per Downes: “The objective of a theory of learning networks is to describe the manner in which resources and services are organized in order to offer learning opportunities in a network environment” (2006, printed page 9). The characteristics of a helpful network are diversity, autonomy, connectedness, and openness.

3 I also need to leave aside the needs assessment that I am actually developing right now. In it, I identify a few basics of computer use and knowledge that many children do not know. Because I know quite a bit about the classrooms in the elementary schools in the area, I already have some data gathered that demonstrate the lack of skills among both children and their parents.

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3 Responses to CCK11: Educurator?

  1. DTRSmith says:

    Hello Leah,

    This sounds like a great idea. It has some elements in common with my video lab. The current layout is quite similar.

    I think it is notionally quite good. On the best days in the lab students help each other a great deal, especially with aesthetic ideas (something I try to minimize my involvement with); but with technical issues, too. Sometimes I find it difficult to not be the “friend” they store their knowledge in, though. And coming up with strategies that encourage independent exploration can be difficult.

    Part of my unintentional strategy in my space has been the fact that my workstation is among the others and not particularly notable (except for a phone and a bit more of a mess. Indeed, when my lab is busy, I sometimes have gone mobile. It makes this environment more like an office full of co-workers than a classroom with an authority in it.

    I agree that just because kids can text it does not follow they know how to do anything beyond IMing or browsing on a computer. As a tech person, I find that many learners cannot improvise well based on prior learning (eg . you know how to cut and paste in MS-Word; but they have to be shown they can do it in a video editor, Photoshop, etc.), and are very “task” oriented rather than concept oriented (they don’t see relationships or connections). It might be something to think about if you are tutoring. I think you allude to the idea; but put it differently above. so I am really just clarifying if you feel like commenting.

    Hope you find the resources if you plan to make this hypothetical centre into a real place.

    Cheers,

    DTRSmith

    • leahgrrl says:

      Thank you, David. I appreciate your having read this and responded with some of your experiences. I do see (and my husband, who is a public school teacher, definitely witnesses) that the students around me don’t have a good grasp at all about how computers work, the basics (like copy and paste), or how to figure out what tool might work for them.

      And further, unless kids can do some basic kinds of programming tasks–even simple HTML or whatever–that they are not truly “literate” in a way that. I agree with the notion that “programming is the new literacy of the digital age”–otherwise, the software makers control how and when we are able to communicate (a la FaceBook).

      I am hoping to find resources to make this happen in the real world here in my tiny town. Somehow I have to make it happen within parents’ small budgets, too; that’s part of the rationale for very short, flashcourses (perhaps at $10 – $20 each or so).

      Best,
      Leah

  2. Pingback: Vragen, questions #cck11 « connectiv

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