Friday, January 14, 2011

"We Are Our Networks"

I am presently engaged in three major educational technology endeavors:

*Challenge Based Learning -- I am immersed in the CBL community through authoring, advocacy and instruction.

*M-Hub -- The knowledge hub project stems directly from my experiences with Challenge Based Learning.  Our team is developing a database of experts within our school community (alumni, parents, staff) which can assist students with research and developing learning network skills.

*iPod touch -- I have teamed with art, French, and science teachers to develop a CBL challenge this spring using iPod touches.

All of these activities owe a great debt to George Siemens’s thinking on “Connectivism”.  Recently he gave a presentation that superbly expresses the philosophy of what I am trying to do these days:

     A community or group is defined by its connections – how people are connected to each other and to the world outside. Relationships are tight-knit. Everyone knows everyone. Social circles, church, school are all part of our social networks, providing a shaping influence on possible connections we draw between concepts, information sources, world views, and even other people. . . .

     When connections calcify and become dogma and rigid structure, they fail to represent the chaotic and continually shifting world outside.
     To map at least partly to reality – the rapidly shifting world of education, commerce, and science – we require innovation and creativity; both of which are fundamentally about drawing novel connections. While growing up, a false boundary was drawn around what was knowable. As a result, all aspects of life were shaped by the known connections: cause/effect, identity/government, etc. The network – tightly nit and highly exclusionary – was the measure of our society. We could grow no more than the freedom of connectedness that we permitted through our social systems and norms. . . . .

     The solutions we need to address societies biggest problems – warming, population growth, poverty – will be found through serendipity, through chaotic connections, through unexpected connections. Complex networks with mesh-like cross-disciplinary interactions provide the needed cognitive capacity to address these problems. . . .

    Confinement of connections – which influence social cohesion and knowledge growth – are also a core problem in classrooms and education.

     The beauty of chaos, of serendipitous encounters, of information clashing with information – is too often subverted to rule, to structure so that it can be better controlled.
     We are our networks

The connections we participate in form our identities. We – you, I – know what our networks know.

"A Model of Multiplicity Frickr CC jpeg courtesy of monsieur paradis

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