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Will Richardson: Connective Teaching: How the Read/Write Web Challenges Traditional Practice

Posted Jan 07 2009 6:28pm

Pcc7 Voice for the Voiceless
In keeping with my context filter (Homeless Children and Children of Poverty) for the Connectivism conference I re-listened to Will's presentation.

Will says that networks are crucial and the best way to stay current is to network with other passionate learners who want to learn the things you do. As educators we must have a willingness to share and be transparent. He tells us that recognizing patterns is huge. As educators we should look at the distributed conversations that are out there -- which are not linear-- and synthesize ideas, pick out patterns of ideas and connect them.

Why should we be doing this?
Because as educators we are modeling how we learn and act in the 21st Century. Our students learn more by watching what we do- than what we say. When teachers model how they learn form networks, then that has a huge role in bringing technologies to students and getting them prepared for a 21st century learning environment.

This is so true for students of poverty or even for students whose parents (regardless of socio-economic status) are not connected at home. Because if they are not modeling after you in the safety net of your classroom- where are they discovering how to grow and learn in the new technology landscape?

Ask Yourself
Ask yourself- are the current methods and curriculum being used at your school going to equip a high poverty student to climb out of the circumstance that has been forced upon them? Will sequential, text based delivery of state mandated curriculum truly help your most needy students become literate in the 21st century?

I think you will see very quickly that if for no other reason than the changing demographic of students we are seeing in our classrooms, it is past time to make principled changes in the way we model learning to our students. Using technology as a medium for communication and collaboration isn't a choice or option any longer. 21st Century teaching and learning needs to be happening NOW. These kids can't wait on policy changes. Having access to a positive force (you) and gaining the knowledge of how to learn and connect in their world is going to be the difference between being locked in generational poverty or breaking out.

Moral Responsibility
The way I see it- teachers have a moral responsibility to help these students; the ones who will only learn how to make these connections in the classroom. As educators, it is our responsibility to help them recognize patterns and build on the scholarship of others while learning to access the information they need to become effective and literate in a global society. This is at the core  of learning in the 21st Century.

Why should teachers unlearn what they are so vested in (their content) and expand their own learning horizon? Because if you do not show your students the power of virtual networks who will? 

Will tells us that learning is no longer an event-- but occurs any time any place- 24/7. That teachers who utilize connections made online become connective learners; they begin to understand and contextualize the changes that need to take place within our schools. Teachers are empowered and equipped to be change agents.

I challenge you to become the strong vital voice for children who otherwise would go unheard- children of poverty. Teach them how to change the circumstance in which they find themselves by giving them the ability to connect.

Change is Tough
Will talked about this moment in time being a disruptive period, as most traditonal media is being challenged. We can all be journalist and report on the events of life. We can produce content  and share content in expansive ways that is changing the role of information in our society. The social nature of these technologies and the connections made around them is very disruptive to traditonally held beliefs about how to act and work within our traditional social contexts.

For a child whose circumstance has conspired against them- this is great news. They are no longer held back and forced to take the hand that society and circumstance has dealt them. They can be empowered through access in the connected teacher's classroom. Connected so they can learn and grow beyond what you have time to teach them.  Most homeless kids are with a teacher for such a short time.  Rather than trying to "catch them up" help them learn by giving them the skills to network, to find resources and postive mentors. That way, when the next move happens in the middle of the night, they are still connected and will not suffer by losing ground. Email address do not have to change with each physical move.

Leverage the Opportunity
Connectivism offers so many opportunities to leverage change as an empowerment strategy for those who need it most. It is only limited by our own resistance to innovation and unwillingness to redesign the way we do things in the classroom.

Just think if we removed time as a constant and began to think of it as a variable (something that was flexible) and instead learning became the constant- (students could take their time to master the content through their passions and perferred learning styles) they wouldnt have to keep step with a calendar to dictate what and when they learn.

What if we planned for extensions of learning outside of the classroom and spent time syndicating content for students to manipulate and contextualize in collaboration with others via the web? What if the exam was an application of the student-centered learning that resulted in a product that proved mastery of the objectives? What if teachers and students were able to be motivated to learn through their passion and strengths?

Will puts the responsibility to change on the teacher. It goes back to what I have always said-- you can't give away what you do not own. As connected teachers we own the skills- and as a result we can give them to our students. Need a reason to get connected? How about-- for the children's sake?

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