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#YourEdustory – What is Connected Learning and WIIFM?

This prompt had me stumped for a few minutes. I’ve got a bit of a handle on connected learning but what was WIIFM? A new learning theory? The ultimate educational techno app? Some sort of radio station for Nintendo fans? I had to Google it…oh What’s In It For Me – one of those new-fangled acronyms that people apparently speak in these days. I get it now LOLZ.

Well, that makes this week’s topic so much simpler. I’ll start with what I know off the top of my head and then do a bit of digging around to add a bit of credibility.

Connected learning is, but is also more than, connecting what you want students to learn with what they already know and are passionate about. It is allowing students to follow their passions and interests and capitalise on the learning opportunities these present. Connected learning is also about taking advantage of the opportunities our globally connected world presents. Technology can enable learners to connect with other learners of similar interests or with experts in the field, regardless of their age, stage in education, and where they physically are – in the same classroom, city, country or anywhere in the world. It is about giving student’s ownership of what they learn and where and how they learn it. Connected learning is social and participatory. With connected learning every student can be a teacher and every teacher a learner too.

WIIFM? It’s pretty much a no-brainer I think. Think about yourself – when have you learnt the most and with the most enjoyment? 9 times out of 10 I’d say it’s when it is related to something you are passionate about. I’ve always maintained, particularly with things relating to technology, that there’s no point learning how to do something unless you have an immediate need for that skill. And I don’t mean it’s just pointless, rather that you won’t learn it effectively and retain your new knowledge or skills. It’s part of why my motto is “Learn, do, teach”.

So what’s in it for me is students who are engaged and interested in what they are doing. Students who don’t actually view what they are doing as “work”. My daughter recently started in year 11. She plays the cello and is studying VCE music. I was taken aback and impressed at how excited she was when she got her timetable and discovered she has music three times a week (instead of three times a fortnight previously) and made the comment “it’s not like class, it’s what I do”. I’m so pleased for her that for at least one of her subjects she has passion as a motivator.

If you google Connected learning you’ll find the Connected Learning site, a project of DML Research Hub and Connected Learning Alliance. I don’t think these organisations “own” connected learning as such but with the likes of Howard Rheingold and Mimi Ito behind them their credibility and authority is pretty high. And their websites provide lots of useful case studies, stories, ideas, videos and links including this great infographic which sums it up pretty neatly I think:

Connected Learning

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#YourEdustory Learning…in 100 words (or less)

CC0 Public Domain image from  http://pixabay.com

CC0 Public Domain image from http://pixabay.com

Learning is the process of acquiring and refining knowledge, skills, habits, opinions, values…

Learning is different for everyone.

Learning is messy, fun, challenging, never-ending, frustrating, scary, rewarding…

Learning is something others may guide, motivate, inspire, instruct, or expect you to do, but;

Learning is in your own hands – you cannot be made to learn.

Learning is something I do every day, and hope to keep doing for the rest of my life.

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I’m an entrepreneurial learner

Part of my Masters studies is writing a reflective blog. For this first subject Concepts and practices for a digital age we are required to publish four official posts over the course of the semester but are free to post other reflections as and when we wish. This is my first official post, cross-posted from Learn, do, teach… The directions were:

Using your readings and interaction with the subject to date, develop a statement about your current knowledge and understanding of concepts and practices in a digital age within the context of your work or professional circumstances. What is the context of your learning? What are your personal aims in this subject? What challenges are you hoping to meet for yourself?

As you might imagine I’m a little nervous about my first assessable writing in a long time – what do you think?

The Global One Room Schoolhouse: John Seely Brown (Highlights from JSB’s Keynote at DML2012). Retrieved from http://youtu.be/fiGabUBQEnM

I didn’t know it till this week but it seems I’m an entrepreneurial learner. I look for new ways to do things, seek new resources, re-evaluate, re-assess, tweak, try, and reflect. I’m not happy doing the same thing in the same way unless I know there isn’t a better way (and that’s rare). So John Seely Brown’s words right at the start of the video struck me straightaway. That’s it! That’s my passion! I want other teachers to be entrepreneurial learners too.

I want to find new and better ways to inspire and motivate teachers to have a go in the networked learning environment, to become “connected educators” – what Tom Whitby defines as “teachers who are comfortable with collaborative learning, social media, and sharing their ideas online.” I share his concern of a “huge gulf now developing between connected and unconnected educators.” (Digital trends shifting the role of teachers)

I want to be able to use the right language to convey my passion, to be able to articulate in pedagogical terms why it is important to keep up and to back up what I say with compelling examples from research. I read widely and find myself nodding my head in agreement or protesting “no” at an outrageous assertion but lack the skills to articulate why I respond that way. I need to “level up” my academic prowess. This is key in my motivation for study and I’m already being rewarded by the range of information being shared formally through the module and the new eye with which I’m viewing information shared informally.

Teachers I work with get bogged down in real and imagined barriers relating to workload, red tape and previous bad experiences, using them as excuses not to try. I love seeing the lightbulb go on when someone realises that a particular tool can actually make them more efficient (seen recently with a new Evernote convert) but often teachers lack motivation or are scared of breaking something or admitting they don’t know. I want teachers to find the same joy I do in play. As Seely Brown says “a key aspect of play is…permission to fail. Fail, fail, fail, then get it right”.

I want teachers to see that the technology itself is irrelevant. Just yesterday a primary teacher bemoaned the fact that her students struggled with using a mouse because they were so used to touch devices. Does it really matter? I can see a day in the not too distant future when the computer mouse will be viewed like the fountain pen, a quaint relic. We already have voice and gesture recognition and eye control is being developed. The mouse should be seen for what it is – an input device, nothing more, nothing less. This tweet from Marc Prensky sums it up beautifully:

 

I want teachers to see the need to transform learning tasks, that simply digitising an existing task and teaching it in the same old way will not develop 21st century skills.  Future work skills 2020 articulates skills that will be required in the workplace of the future but traditional teaching methods will not serve these needs. Consider Ruben R. Puentedura‘s SAMR model:

Image the creation of Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D. http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/
Retrieved from http://jennyluca.wikispaces.com/TPACK+and+SAMR 13 March, 2014

SAMR can be applied equally by teachers thinking about how they teach and how they themselves learn. I want to be an agent of redefinition.

Finally, I need to become a better teacher-librarian by sharpening up my own search and research skills. Already I am enjoying the challenges this poses.