New Year, New Connections, New Learning
Day 2 of 2009 and I’ve already taken part in my first connected learning experience. Darren Kuropatwa was taking part in a radio discussion about 21st Century Learning in Manitoba, but there was some great conversation going on in the backchannel he set up on Chatterous.
If anyone wants to know how the way we learn and communicate and share is changing for the better, they only needed to drop in on Radio CJOB from Manitoba, Canada. Darren Kuropatwa, Dean Shareski and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach were the guests of the radio station’s Richard Cloutier on his 3 hour morning show. Darren had set up a back channel using Chatterous, which was a new service for me, and I dropped in along with a host of other educators from around the world.
Over the course of the three hours (in reality, about two hours when you take the adverts and news out!), there were over 1,000 comments made on Chatterous… absolutely incredible if you ask me! Can you imagine what a difference that level of conversation could make to three hours worth of lessons? Maybe we need to start looking to open up a backchannel in our classrooms. The idea is appealing… and doesn’t need to be hi-tech. A supply of post-its and pens on every desk and a space on the wall to post the questions could be an interesting starting point…
The issues that sounded a common chord were fairly predictable: blocking, slow adoption, time, and so forth. All the usual suspects were there. Interestingly, there was also an ‘on-air’ question from a teacher who’d phoned into the show to bemoan the lack of ‘penmanship’ of the computer literate kids he taught… I was reminded of Karl Fisch’s infamous “What If” presentation. To me, what all of this suggests is that there is a genuine reluctance to accept the changes that are happening.
There are a small minority of teachers who ‘get it’ — and, of course, they make up the vast majority of my readers. This is a shame. A great shame. Because without more people becoming aware of the possibilities, we are unlikely to see any of the wholesale changes that I believe are necessary if we are to truly move education — learning and teaching — forward.
There’s an interesting passage in the discussion at about the half-way mark (Page 5, about halfway down) where we were discussing how the change is so slow. Sharon B (one of the participants) makes the really valid point that “[She does] not think there is much trust between many IT depts, administators and teacher – not to mention students”. Trust has to lie at the heart of all we do, but all too often this is undermined by the focus on the finishing line. The importance of having the right grades can overwhelm us at times. The end result is of more importance than any learning we may do along the way… and I think this is all wrong.
If we are going to create and guide children capable of learning for themselves so that they can thrive in their unknown futures, we have to start allowing them to learn from wherever they can find the knowledge. Our role moves from the traditional ‘authority’ role to the more useful ‘mentor’ role — but this step into the potentially unkown and unknowable is what scares traditional models of education and is going to hold us back if we are not careful.
The real worry for me at the moment is the impact of the ‘credit crunch’. Suddenly, we are faced by an even more uncertain future and in the past this has tended to mean people stick to what is tried and tested — playing safe rather than trying new ideas. But I believe this is really the best time to try out new ideas and strategies… after all, it was the old ways that, arguably, created the credit crunch in the first place.
One thing I do know is that I’ve started 2009 running. A great conversation and some fantastic contacts added to my twitter — I’m looking forward to what my future brings!