Move #10, Position #10, Patricia Briand

(Linked to Eva position 6 and Laurie positions 7 and 9)

In the above Sesame Street clip from 1971, to give Bob clues as to their profession, the teachers explain that they work with a blackboard and chalk, in a big building, with children.  Today, 45 years later, the role of the teacher is incredibly different, but our school system still sees teachers working in big buildings with children, although not so much with chalkboards anymore, and no longer alone.  In fact kids singing about “the people in their neighbourhood” now would probably include not only friends, family, and neighbours who live in close physical proximity, but could include people from far off countries whom they have never met in person.  Our “neighbourhood”, thanks to the internet, is vast.  Kids today have teachers in their classrooms, but they also have millions of teachers available to them on the net–their own Personal Learning Networks (PLN).

PLN collage

Personal Learning Networks  have always existed in the form of friends and family, but today the possibilities for connecting and collaborating with other like-minded individuals are endless.  In her post, Eva spoke about the need for teachers to take responsibility as leaders in order that students can take control of their learning. With PLNs, students take control of their learning by making online connections with others who further strengthen the learning process.  Last year I saw Will Richardson, author of Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education (2011), speak at a conference in Boston, and realized just how incredibly different the role of the teacher should be for today’s youth.  In the video below, Richardson touches on a number of topics that we have discussed both in our classes and in this hipbone game.  He points out that PLNs allow students to create their own curriculum based on what they are passionate about (as Laurie mentioned in her post on authentic learning), that everyone’s network will be different (as I have suggested regarding creativity), that we need to help kids navigate their networks safely (as David discussed in his post on Porn), that kids must ENGAGE themselves in the conversation (Laurie’s post on the need for engagement), and finally that all of this is already happening, and that there is a need for someone (educators!) to help students “leverage” their participation in this new learning paradigm. It’s like Richardson was eavesdropping on our conversations!   Check it out below:

Building and developing PLNs is strongly supported by the Connectivism Theory (“a learning theory for the digital age”) (Siemens, G., & Downes, S., 2005), which is based on the following principles:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

The video below, “The Networked Student” is 5 minutes long, but I urge you to watch the entire thing.  It clearly explains HOW students connect with others not only through social media but using a wide variety of online educational communities, the ways that they can collaborate and share ideas to further their understanding of ANYTHING, and finally, the importance of the role of the educator in the process, which at first glance seems to be entirely student-driven and without the need for a facilitator.  In the last 30 seconds, we learn that teachers are now “learning architects, modellers, learning concierges, network sherpas”, and more.  The future of education is undoubtedly grounded in a need for collaboration on the part of students, teachers, and everyone in our “global neighbourhood”, working together in our toward shared goals and creating new possibilities.