This week I was exposed to ideas about the nature of learning, knowledge, and reality that challenged a lot of what I know already about how students learn. Last year I spent my professional learning time on learning about primordial spaces in the classroom, the idea of the cave, the watering hole, and the fire pit being essential to the construction of knowledge in individual, small, and large group situations. I find that there is lots of value in varied learning environments and students need different spaces to access and create different types of knowledge. The question the article on connectivism brings up for my own practice is how can I incorporate these primordial learning spaces with modern tools to facilitate student interaction in changing environments. Is the cave basically working offline, is the fire pit a place where you have a small network and is the watering hole a group of large connections?
“Decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations.” from Seimens leads me to the thought of how hard it can be to change somebody’s foundations and world views. David Ropiek writes about how hard it can be to change someone’s mind, or yours. How do we have conversations with the administration, school boards, parents, and other teachers about the changing nature of knowledge, even students can sometimes have difficulty changing their world view if they have a solid ontology, to begin with. In a traditional school setting these connections between the teacher are broken each year, even among classmates they are also broken. What kinds of systems can we develop to facilitate and maintain these connections, how can we use architects in designing new spaces that encourage connectivism?
A big takeaway for me is the idea that understanding changes, and that what we know to be right now may be wrong later on. How do we prepare young minds to be flexible to accept new ideas that can sometimes be shattering to their world view? Another idea that comes to mind is the idea of flexible learning and self-organization, and how this connects to the IB program and the teaching of the Approaches to Learning, and how important these mix of interpersonal, communication and research skills are. How can we as educators continue to embed these in our teaching and reflection on learning to promote the life-long learning and flexibility that connectivism dictate?
As mentioned by Seimens “The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital”, then as teachers and learners we have to find new ways to help ourselves and students navigate the information they seek, decide on its relevance, and apply it to their own questions. I also wonder about knowledge flow, and how we can for lack of a better metaphor, help students control the tap, so it is not overwhelming. How can we manage this, through curation activities, applications of specific topic based resources? During research activities, my students naturally navigate (despite the many lessons about not doing this) to typing a question into Google as the first way to find out.
Nurturing and maintaining connections, how would this look in a traditional school setting where students move along each year in groups, and leave teachers behind, how can schools set up systems to nurture connections made between units, across school years, vertically and horizontally?
So moving forward, how do I get from the campfire to the holodeck? Thornburg’s ideas on primordial spaces, like connectivism, mentions the idea of learning for the future, not our past and also that there is another primordial space, life. Perhaps that is a good place to start, by learning in the real world, making connections with the community through authentic experiences that connect students with each other and those around them. Also, take them outside to observe, bring along some tech to document, share and reflect on what they learned, and think about how they can use the tech to solve problems or enhance their ideas or put them in touch with someone who can.