OPEN EDUCATION :  REFLECTIONS ON LEARNING NETWORKS

"I never teach my pupils: I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn" - Albert Einstein.
My Wordle for Personal Learning Networks

Wordle for Personal Learning Networks

One of the effects of the abundance of online learning resources is the trend of coming up with new terms to define what we mean by education and even to question what its purpose is.

There are still relics of the Dickensian notion that students are vessels to be filled facts but, thankfully, this is a pedagogy that by and large belongs to the past.

Yet, although we like to think we live in a more enlightened age, the rapid nature of the change over the past two decades continues to be hard to assimilate.

Openness implies accessibility and an accommodating attitude so, all things being equal, these should be good times for teachers and students, life-long or otherwise.

So why do I feel so much doubt and uncertainty? Shouldn’t my mood be more celebratory?

In George Siemens and Stephen Downes’ theory of Connectivism, the assertion is that knowledge can be gained by the ‘nodes’ within the plethera of social network sites.

But, even when these nodes are connected, an autonomous Personal Learning Environment (PLE) can still be a sad place to be unless there is also some meaningful contact with the outside world.

I have a strong anti-social streak in me, but even I can appreciate that without face to face contact with peers, the effect will be anything but liberating.

In The Challenges of Connectivist Learning, Rita Kemp write that “participation in activities is seen as being vital to learning”. This may seem like a mundane observation until you consider the difference between participation in a ‘real’ classroom environment and that which takes place online.

By blogging, tweeting, posting on Facebook walls or commenting on other posts we are making connections but I constantly ask myself how much I am learning from these activities.

Often they make me feel more disconnected as I note how many people appear more learned than me and how they lead  lives which frequently seem more dynamic and interesting than my own.

I didn’t start writing this post with any clear idea where it would take me.

It has led me to these melancholy thoughts – maybe I need to get out and network more!

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