flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I am continually questioned about why I blog. Often this leads to discussion about who has the right to speak? How do I know if what I am saying is of value? Asking such questions can get us caught in thinking that sharing has some specific consequence or outcome. Thinking like this misses the growth and opportunity that such reflection provides.

First and foremost, this blog is about me. This is a point that Royan Lee touches on. Dean Shareski though sums the personal up best in his celebration of ten years of blogging. As he states:

What I will tell you is that I need to blog more. Not for you, but for me. I need to get back to sharing more frequently, my thinking. Not for you, but for me. Unfinished thoughts, marginal insights and conversations that have sparked my interest need to be shared and explored here. Not for you, but for me. This is the space for me to mull over ideas and thoughts (see what I did there) which is what I intended this to be 10 years ago.

The other side of all this is what happens when ideas are shared. Clive Thompson suggests that, “once thinking is public, connections take over.” What is important about these connections is that as much as we try and manage them, they often have a journey that is somewhat beyond me. Whether it be the different experiences and interpretations. What is important isn’t always what we gain, rather it is the potential to start new lines of thought and inquiry. Such seeds have the potential to blossom into untold possibilities.

An example of such serendipity is the story associated with Adrian Camm’s ‘Permission to Innovate‘ card:

I was given this card at Digicon15, but this is the really the end of the story. My part in it all came about when I reached out to my PLN for thoughts on the topic of feedback. I was in a team at school in charge of investigating different practises in order to identify areas for improvement. One of the great resources I was referred to was a presentation by Cameron Paterson investigating formative assessment and documentation. One of the slides was a coupon to be free of criticism:

Formative Assessment from Cameron Paterson

I shared this out on Twitter, where it was then picked up by Camm who took the idea and created a loyalty style card, which he gave out to his staff and me.

To come back to the title, what are the five ways to change the world yesterday? I could list five, but you don’t really need that many. Instead, I am going to give you just one, because at the end of the day that is all you need. Be the change you want in the world. Like Cory Doctorow’s dandelion, share freely, with the knowledge that you never know who may benefit and what change it may bring. For as Steve Wheeler suggests,

Giving away ideas and knowledge is a bit like love, as told in the story of Jesus and the feeding of the 5000. You can share it around as much as you like, but you still get to keep it, and there is always plenty left over.


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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I was recently asked by a colleague about my ‘vision’ for eLearning and 21st century learning. Inspired in part by Gary Stager educational philosophy in 100 words, as well as my work with with DET exploring the EDUSTAR planning tool, this is the list of attributes that I came up with:

eLearning …

Is Transformative: More than just redefined, learning is purposeful and involves wider implications.

Is More Doable: Makes things like critical thinking and collaboration more possible.

Enables Student Voice: Technology provides a voice for students to take ownership over their work and ideas.

Involves Modelling Digital Citizenship: More than a sole lesson, eLearning should be about foster competencies throughout the curriculum.

I supported this with a list of readings to clarify where my thoughts had come from. Although as I have stated time and time again, it takes a village and recognising everyone in the village can be a futile act.

My concern with this whole process though is two-fold. Firstly, a vision is not created by one person, however compelling that may be. A point that George Couros makes in his book Innovator’s Mindset. This is a problem I had with the DET EDUSTAR training where a few random representatives were expect to be the voice of a whole school. While secondly, an eLearning vision needs to marry with the school’s wider vision for ‘learning’. The question then remains as to how we make a vision for learning and technology which supports the whole school with a common goal?

So what about you, what is your eLearning vision? How is it integrated within the wider school vision? As always comments are welcome.

 


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Digital Creating and Making at #DigiCon15 http://bit.ly/quickmakes
Digital Creating and Making at #DigiCon15 http://bit.ly/quickmakes

GIF stands for graphic interchange format. It is a type of loop-able image that lasts for only a few seconds. Andy Rush explains that originally they were designed for practical visual indicators, such as under construction signs for a webpage or animated email buttons. However, as with most things with technology, as time has passed, GIFs have developed a life and purpose of their own.

A key to the success of a GIF is repetition. Sometimes this is because the image creates a closed loop continually repeating. However, GIFs also have a potential to tap into our curiosity of storytelling, where although the clip may not necessarily create a closed loop, the engagement with the moment keeps the viewer watching again and again. Mariana Funes provides a range of reasons for GIFs, including the creation of the impossible, a representation of how we think, an act of becoming. While Clive Thompson explains,

The animated GIF lets us stop and ponder a single moment in the stream, to resee something that otherwise would zip by unnoticed.

What differentiates a GIF from other short video forms, such as Vine, Twitter and Instagram, is that there is no sound.

In regards to creating a GIF, there are many programs that you can use to make them, including IMGUR, Photoshop, and Camtasia. Common Craft provide a range of options, both free and paid, in their thorough guide. However, a site that often overlooked, that allows you to make GIFs quickly and easily is gifyoutube.com.

Basically, you put ‘gif’ in front of any YouTube video in order to convert it. The site provides a few options, such as adding captions, deciding start time and setting the duration. Although you can search the site for published GIFs, I prefer to publish animations at Giphy, a site best understood as the YouTube for GIFs.

Some possible uses of GIFs in education include:

  • Providing comments and captions over the top of a short clip
  • Creating a visual story (see Nathan Bransford explanation of the writing process)
  • Make a provocation to discuss what might happen next
  • Developing an explanation for a skill or instruction
  • A summary in images (see this Reddit board representing entire films as GIFs)

While here are some additional resources exploring some different programs to create a GIF:

A Quick and Incomplete History of the Animated GIF – A thorough collection of reflections and resources from Andy Rush

Why Do You Want to Make a GIF at All – An extensive collection of links, perspectives and examples from Mariana Funes. For a shorter version, see her Medium post, The Animated GIF

The Animated GIF: Still Looping After All These Years – An analysis from Clive Thompson about the history and place of the GIF in society

Do You Speak GIF? – An introduction to Giphy from Mariana Funes

If You Have to Say It, Say It In GIF – A detailed account of GIFs and where they maybe heading

How to Create Explainer GIFs – How to explain your ideas quickly and easily using a GIF

Giffing – How to make a GIF using Photoshop, which includes a great collection of examples.

Making GIFs with IMGUR – How to make a GIF with IMGUR

Creating Animated GIFs with MPEG Streamclip and GIMP – How to make a GIF with MPEG Streamclip and GIMP

Soundbitification – A reflection on the rise of the short form from Amy Burvall and its impact on attention

Ooh Ooh Mr Kotter! I Know How To Optimize My GIFs! – Alan Levine provides an explanation as to how he took a GIF and optimised it using Photoshop.

Full Movie GIFs – A Reddit page dedicated to movies told as a GIF.

The Publishing Process in GIF Form – A post from Nathan Bransford unpacking the writing process using GIF images.

Lola Who – Brandon Tauszik talks about the idea of a GIF being a piece of art.

Eight-second videos are long enough to infringe on copyright, says UK judge – A case covered by Glyn Moody which touches on GIFs and copyright.

Looking at This Viral GIF Could Be the Perfect Way to Cope With an Anxiety Attack – A simple GIF designed to support breathing when stressed and anxious.

GIFDeck – A site that allows you to turn Slidedeck presentations into a GIF.


If you have any other resources or experiences with using GIF animations in education (or elsewhere), feel free to share. I would love to know.


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creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/16113234922

As I look back on 2014 I am faced again with the question: why do I blog or more importantly, why should anyone blog? Is there any point? Is it self indulgent? Does it actually serve any purpose? I have written a few posts about blogging. Some of the thoughts that I had about why to blog were:

  • To scratching an itch
  • Be connected
  • Critically engage with ideas
  • Form of life-long learning
  • Lead by example
  • Share with the wider community
  • Notes in the (digital) margin
  • Refine thoughts

The problem is, every time I think I know why I blog, some other reason springs to mind.

The ambiguity associated with intention is best epitomised by Margaret Atwood in her collection of essays, Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing. In her introduction she confronts the question of motive and compiles an extensive list:

To record the world as it is. To set down the past before it is all forgotten. To excavate the past because it has been forgotten. To satisfy my desire for revenge. Because I knew I had to keep writing or else I would die. Because to write is to take risks, and it is only by taking risks that we know we are alive. To produce order out of chaos. To delight and instruct (not often found after the early twentieth century, or not in that form). To please myself. T express myself. To express myself beautifully. To create a perfect work of art. To reward the virtuous and to punish the guilty; or – the Marquis de Sade defence, used by ironists – vice versa. To hold a mirror up to Nature. To hold a mirror up to the reader. To paint a portrait of society and its ills. To express the unexpressed life of the masses. To name the hitherto unnamed. To defend the human spirit, and human integrity and honor. To thumb my nose at Death. To make money so that my children could have shoes. To make money so I could sneer at those who formerly sneered at me. To show the bastards. Because to create is human. Because to create is Godlike. Because I hated the idea of having a job. To say a new word. To make a new thing. To create a national consciousness, or a national conscience. To justify my failures in school. To justify my own view of myself and my life, because I couldn’t be a ‘writer’ unless I actually did some writing. To make myself appear more interesting than I actually was. To attract the love of a beautiful woman. To attract the love of any woman at all. To attract the love of a beautiful man. To rectify my imperfections and my miserable childhood. To thwart my parents. To spin a fascinating tale. To amuse and please the reader. To amuse and please myself. To pass the time, even though it would have passed anyway. Graphomania. Compulsive logorrhea. Because I was driven to it by some force outside my control. Because I was possessed. Because an angel dictated to me. Because I fell into the embrace of the Muse. Because I got pregnant by the Muse and needed to give birth to a book. Because I had books instead of children (several twentieth-century woman). To serve Art. To serve the Collective Unconscious. To serve History. To justify the ways of God towards man. To act out antisocial behaviour for which I would have been punished in real life. To master a craft so that I could generate texts. To subvert the Enlightenment. To demonstrate that whatever is, is right. To experiment with new forms of perception. To create a recreational boudoir so that the reader could go into it and have fun. Because the story took hold of me and wouldn’t let me go (the Ancient Mariner defense). To search for understanding of reader and myself. To cope with my depression. For my children. To make a name that would survive death. To defend a minority group or oppressed class. To speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. To expose appalling wrongs or atrocities. To record the times through which I have lived. To bear witness to horrifying events that I have survived. To speak for the dead. To celebrate life in all of its complexity. To praise the universe. To allow for the possibility of hope and redemption. To give back something of what has been given to me.

At the end of the day, why we do anything is always complicated.

In this myriad of explanations and elaborations, I therefore have another reason to add to my ongoing discussion about why to blog. My latest thought is that blogging provides a means for meta-reflection, the possibility to look back through past opinions and practises. An example of this in action is Alan Levine’s post ‘From Javier to Norbert‘. In it, Levine is able call on his vast digital repository to reflect upon past experiences of the Grand Canyon to recollect his experience of being caught in the canyon in the midst of a flood.

It needs to be understood that such reflection is in addition to the actual act of reflection that is often a central part of each and every blog post. For as Clive Thompson accounts in his book, Smarter Than You Think, that in world where abundance is ever present, technology allows us to keep and curate memories that we may have otherwise have lost. I recently had a moment of meta-reflection as I went through my posts and adjusted the categories having moved from Blogger to WordPress. It was an interesting experience skimming back through what I had written. Although some posts never leave you, there are others that in rereading them create an uncanny feeling. That moment where you have to check yourself, wondering if you actually wrote it and what was going on at the time. A message from the past to remind you of those underlying values, beliefs and events that sometimes drop out of our memory overtime.

Here then are three posts which have had the greatest impact on me in reviewing them after the fact for what they remind me of and challenge me with:

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/16109207045
  • Celebrating Other Voices in the Moment – I don’t think that I realised how raw this post was until I looked back on it a few months later. I remember getting a few tweets at the time about how open I was, but sometimes when you are in the moment you don’t always see that. Perspective can take time. I have reread it a few times since and each time it reminds me to always be mindful of those moments that are so easy to pass on by.
Via @hhoede on Twitter
  • This Is My #EduDream What Is Yours? – It is a challenging exercise laying out your supposed dreams. Not only is it difficult to articulate them in a meaningful manner, but there is a certain lie and fragility in giving voice to them. For dreams and ideals are are neither static nor wholly our own, therefore to commit oneself to such a fixed notion can miss something. For as I have written in the past, ideals are not always ideal. Interestingly, one person stated, such ‘dreams’ are best formed collectively as a community. I have subsequently found that the more I engage with others in education the more I question each of the assertions I laid down. I critique them and they continue to evolve. For as I have mused elsewhere, ideas are best held loosely, for it is only then that they can actually grow.

Listening to Voices DLTV2014

  • Learning to Learn by Learning – a Reflection on a Collaborative Project – This was an attempt to collect together my thoughts and experiences in regards to a presentation Steve Brophy and I did at DLTV2014. I say ‘attempt’ because even though the conference has long gone, the actual experience continues on. I initially contacted Brophy with two thoughts in mind: how do you collaborate on a topic with someone from a different educational background who you do not necessarily know and what would be an alternative format to the usual conference experience of chalk and talk. Without a script to go by, to ascertain ‘success’, I often think back over the choices we made and wonder. Would it have been different if we weren’t in a lecture theatre? Could we have done anything to make the session more interactive and hands on? What did people actually come away with? Going out on a limb into the unknown as we did, I think that it will be one of those moments of learning which I will always come back to again and again as a point of reflection.

Although these posts may not have been the most read by others, they are the posts that mean something to me and sometimes this is the forgotten element. For as Pernille Ripp recently wrote, “Start your blogging journey for yourself”. To add to that, make sure it is always about yourself first and fore-mostly.

I remember reading a post from Doug Belshaw in which he wrote a letter to his past self with some advice and general pointers. Flipping this idea, I think that we can undersell our past selves for failing to find the solutions for tomorrow. Stopping and looking back on the past can be often be the catalyst needed to drive you forward. Blogging provides an easy means for doing this.

So what are those moments of learning that have made a difference with you this year? Would love to know. See you in the new year.

For those interested in my top ten most read posts for 2014, here they are:

  1. What’s So Digital About Literacy, Anyway?
  2. Are You Really Connecting If You Are Not Giving Back?
  3. What Digital Revolution?
  4. PLN: Verb or Noun?
  5. #GTASYD 2014 – Feet on the Ground, Head in the Clouds
  6. To Quickvic with Love – My Reflections on Reporting
  7. Why I Put My Hand Up For GTASYD and Why I Am Excited
  8. Presentations Don’t Make a Conference, People Do
  9. Becoming a Connected Educator – TL21C Reboot Presentation
  10. This is My Edudream, What is Yours?

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creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by Orin Zebest: http://flickr.com/photos/orinrobertjohn/116972344

This year, I have taken to audiobooks. Unsatisfied by my consumption of podcasts and frustrated with all the books that I just don’t have time to read, I have taken to listening while I’m walking, driving, working, gardening – basically, whenever allows. During this time I have gone through quite a few books:

At the heart of Gladwell’s book is the myth of power and strength. What he sets out to uncover is that so often strengths are at same time weakness and with that supposed weaknesses can often be our greatest strengths. His archetypal example is David and Goliath. So often it is a story told of an underdog getting lucky, but really when you break the story down David was meant to win. For so often success comes through subverting the expectations of others, going against all expectations. In the case of David, his refusal to fight hand to hand, as well as his speed and agility, were really why he won. Gladwell provides example after example of successful people who have failed because they have not perceived their own inherent weakness, as well as those who have looked at situations and seen a different possibility than that often expected by others.

Too Big To Know by +David Weinberger

Weinberger sets out to unpack the crisis of knowledge that has been brought about with the move from scarcity to abundance. Whereas in the past we managed the hose by setting our standards high, associating truth and knowledge with experts and supposed universals. With the increase in technology and the rise of algorithmic and social networks, such fallacies are put to rest. For as has oft been quoted, “the smartest person in the room is the room.” The challenge then today isn’t necessarily about becoming an expert in a particular area or being the font of all knowledge, instead it is how to create smart rooms which value diversity and allow for the emergence of ideas. The inherent irony of Weinberger’s book is that there was always too much to know, it is just now there is no hiding from the fact.

Mindsets by Carol Dweck

Mindsets is not necessarily a book about success and failure, but rather a book about how we perceive success and failure. For Dweck there are two mindsets which govern pretty much everything that we do. They are the fixed and growth mindsets. Those with a fixed mindset see things as black or white, either good or bad. They feel the need to always prove themselves and consider setbacks as failure. In opposition to this, from the perspective of the growth mindset, failure is embraced as an area for improvement, effort is rewarded and setbacks are seen as an opportunity for future learning. What was interesting was that we are not necessarily always one or the other. We can actually have different mindsets for different problems, as well as fluctuate between the two.

Continuing on from where Weinberger finished, Thompson sets out to dispel many myths associated with technology, about it being a panacea to all our ills, to it being the start of the apocalypse. The book is as much about how technology can extend us as it is about how it already is. Unpacking our lived digital lives, not everything that we have today is new. Some fears, some forms of innovation, have been around for hundreds of years. On the flip side of this, history shows that we often refine and improve the tools we have, Thompson therefore offers a glimpse into a possible future. One debunked myth that really stood out to me was the notion that because of technology we read and write less, subsequently leading to a decline in literacy standards. Instead, Thompson points out that with the aid of technology we actually read and write far more than we ever did before. Challenge is being critical.
It is interesting reflecting on all of the books. Although they are all somewhat different, the one thing that ties them all together is that things are not always as they seem and even more importantly, we have the power to make a difference.

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creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by Cea.: http://flickr.com/photos/centralasian/5433404872 
I was challenged today with the question: where will innovation be in five years time? With schools creating strategic plans, it was something being considered. What should be the goal, the aim and drive for the coming years. My thoughts jumped to ideas such as:
I could go on and in some respects I’d be repeating much of what I stated in my post on educational dreaming.
 
What was interesting though was that midst all this technological bliss, I was queried about the dependency on technology to drive innovation. +Sam Irwin asked:

@mrkrndvs does it have to involve technology to be innovative?
— Sam Irwin (@samjirwin) September 11, 2014

I must admit, I hadn’t thought of it like that. Of course it doesn’t, but how often do we start such conversations with the assumption that it does. To me, this was an interesting case of what +Clive Thompson describes as ‘thinking out loud’ in his book Smarter Than You Think. That is, the process where in sharing thoughts openly we gain access to a plethora of ideas inherent within the wider network of learners. As Thompson states, “Having an audience can clarify thinking. It’s easy to win an argument inside your head. But when you face a real audience, you have to be truly convincing.” This public audience not only encourages clarity and perspective, but it more often than not leads to a deeper understanding of the topic at hand.
 
This all got me wondering about innovation and how we often associate it, not only with technology, but with wholesale change. If we stop and consider the definition of what it means to innovate, you soon realise that it is not about size. As the Oxford Dictionary describes, to innovate is to “make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.” It seems fair to say that there are many habits and practises which are established by both individuals and small groups. Does this emphasis then on the big risk overlooking the small? How often are we missing the innovation and change that occurs each and every day everywhere?
 
 
For example, let’s think about teaching. There are many ways to improve practise in the classroom. Some possibilities include a focus on learning data, whether it be results or feedback, to identify specific areas for improvement and development in regards to pedagogy. Another possibility is a review of the structure of spaces and what sort of learning is being made possible. What is significant about such changes is that the onus is not just on the school or the team, but on the individual.
 
In addition to teachers, students too can demonstrate innovation and improvement in what they do themselves. This could be the choices that they make in regards to their work or it maybe taking ownership over certain aspects of learning, whether it be their own or as a part of a group. Although we may not be able to directly implement many such changes, basically because they are not our decisions to be made, it is possible to make them more possible and plausible by creating a learning environment that allows for them.
 
The easy answer is too often to push all these changes on staff and students under the banner of whole school change. However, this not only denies differences, but more often than not takes away any sense of agency from the individuals in question. Just as students come to us with a breadth of ability, so to do teachers. The one answer fits all approach often denies the fact that each and everyone of us is at a different stage of the journey and it is there that we must start. +Dan Donahoo best summed up this dilemma in his keynote at #ICTEV13 where he stated that ‘it takes a village’. This means that when we implement the idea, if it is still the same at the end as it was at start then we haven’t really listened. At the heart of all change and innovation is a dialogue with a wider sense of community and at the heart of dialogue is compromise.
 
In a recent session on instructional learning, Muffy Hand made a comment that really struck me, “teachers are the most important resource in every school.” Maybe then instead of always simply focusing on the big changes, we need to celebrate the smaller changes made by those at the coal face. Instead of waiting for the next piece of software or engaging initiative to be the cure to all our supposed problems, we need to reflect upon our own established practises with the questions: what am I doing and is best for the situation at hand. An interesting tool for stimulating such a discussion either individually or as a group is +Richard Olsen‘s Modern Learning Canvas. For although we maybe great, taking the next step towards excellence will be different for all of us.

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creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/14929330102WALL-e quote
A teacher at school came into my office the other day excited that he’d just received a new document at a recent network meeting. The document was ‘Towards a New End: New Pedagogies for Deep Learning’. A document produced by Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy as a part of the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning global project. The teacher in question was disappointed that we weren’t also apart of the project.
The odd thing was that I had already seen this document. Firstly, via +Jenny Ashby on Twitter and then through her blog post requesting opinions and perspectives on the various skills. While I then came upon it as a part of the WMR 21st Century Network that +Sam Irwin and I set up. +Chris Karageorge shared how his school had also joined the project.
This whole situation highlighted two things to me: one, we are all influenced in life by networks whether we care to recognise it or not; and two, are we missing the point in focusing on being connected, is that what it is all about?
In a recent post, Quinn Norris painted a picture of life in a networked world. In it she spoke about the usual – Internet, passwords and trojans. However, what struck me was how in a modern world we are all dependent on networks (not just the Internet) in some way. As she stated, “We live with and in networks every minute of everyday.” Whether it be food networks, the legal system or roads and transport, our lives are built upon an array of networks that more often than not we simply take for granted. What I felt was missing in this discussion though was the human network, the personal networks that we form. Although social media and other such platforms capture such connections and help to strengthen them, they do not take in everything. Unless you are a hermit living in a cave, which would mean that you would not be reading this, then your life is connected – to family, friends, colleagues, communities – whether you like it or not.
This perspective of being forever connected got me wondering about the notion then of the connected educator. It is easy to caught up in a discussion of the supposed benefits of being connected. However, like the discussion around having children of your own, surely what is important is the openness to new experiences, not the actual experience itself?
As I have suggested elsewhere, one could easily have children and not necessarily learn a single thing. What matters most in my view is your perspective. I think then that when people say that they don’t have time to ‘be connected’, that they are in fact saying something completely different. To me, what these people are really saying is that they already know everything and that, just maybe, they have nothing else to learn in life. They in fact don’t have time for learning.
I didn’t actively become connected to become connected. I first stepped outside of the world of Facebook and stories about high school weddings and babies into the open world of Twitter in search for greener pastures. I was in a situation at school where there were a few things that just weren’t working and I was after a different perspective on things. Ironically, I feel like I know less now then I did before I stepped out. As +Katelyn Fraser quoted, whether it be the principal, the network coach, the subject association, early on in my career I thought that it was someone else’s job to tell me what the supposedly ‘best practise’.
Through my journey, I have come to the belief that there is no one approach to rule them all. Instead, I feel that the challenge is finding the best solution for the situation at hand. That is what I tried to explain in my post on pedagogical cocktails. The idea that our pedagogical practise is a concoction of different ideas that is constantly evolving. It would be easy to argue that I have come to this position because I am a connected educator who curates a lot of ideas and information. However, I believe that I came to this position because first and fore-mostly, I am a lifelong learner, being connected accelerates this whole process.
Coming back to Norton’s discussion of networks, I would argue that all our learning is linked to networks in some shape and form. For learning involves interaction, whether it be with people, ideas or simply the world around us. Learning is never in isolation. It is complicated. It is messy. It always involves others. +Doug Belshaw provides an excellent discussion of this in regards to the myth that literacy is an isolated activity in his book, ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’. There is no escaping interaction, there is only ignorance of such associations.
I am reminded again and again of +Clive Thompson‘s piece for Wired, ‘Why Even the Worst Bloggers Are Making Us Smarter’. Thompson’s point is that whether strong or weak, our interactions constantly influence us. “The things we think about are deeply influenced by the state of the art around us: the conversations taking place among educated folk, the shared information, tools, and technologies at hand.” The act then of curation and critiquing not only forces us to be more convincing, but also accelerates the creation of new ideas and information. It can then be argued that the measurement of learning is not what you keep to yourself – scribbling in a notebook, essays kept in a filing cabinet – but how much you share with others, what you add back. Instead of the question: ‘Are you really connecting if you are not giving back?’ Maybe the real question is: ‘Are you really learning if you are not sharing that learning?’

 

Using +David Weinberger‘s notion that ‘the smartest person in the room is the room’. Learning is then about how big your room is. If you keep your learning to yourself or simply share it with colleagues in your school, how deep is your learning? +Steve Brophy made a really interesting point, suggesting that “The best professional development requires giving, whether it be your opinion, your story or your skill.” Often we set out on a journey for solutions, however if we are not open to the unexpected, the responses, the alternatives, how deep will the learning be?
Coming back to Norton, “Networks have shapes and geographies, and once you can see them you can use them.” If this is the case and all learning is connected then the challenge is understanding how you are connected and to best use these connections to come up with the best solution for your context and situation.
It is important to remember that connections, like learning, should never be a thing in themselves. The challenge is to take this learning, this knowledge, these ideas, and make them new again. Change them, adapt them, pay them forward. +George Couros sums this up best in his recent post, where he states, “The network is where the information has been found, but the ability to remix it for your own context is where innovation happens.”
So what are you learning right now and how are you using your connections to accelerate this process. I would love to know.

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