Week 5: Making sense of the chaos

When I think back to what I learnt in university, I remember committing Vygotsky, Piaget and Skinner to memory. We were taught and exposed to various learning theories that served as an entry point into teaching and learning. We spent most of our years thinking about how learning occurred within students and what kind of learning environment would engage students based on our understanding of how they learned. We planned many classroom activities and materials with Vygotsky and Piaget in mind.

Upon reflection, I realise many of the lessons I had planned during university did not fully consider the impact of technology in the teaching and learning process. When I started working in a school with access to devices, I began to look deeply into the integration of technology in the classroom. My school had the resources to facilitate technology integration, allowing me to regularly and readily integrate technology into the classroom.

Through this experience, I begin to think about the effect that technology had on my teaching and students’ learning. I began to think more deeply about what and how I wanted students to learn since, with the ubiquity and ease of technology, they could Google the answer to my questions. It became my mission to create a learning experience where they had to apply what they knew into another circumstance. They had to come up with something new.

In Siemens’ article (2005), it was intriguing to read about the half-life of knowledge. I started to read more about the half-life of knowledge and came across a blog titled “Half-life: The decay of knowledge and what to do about it”. It explores the concept of half-life and what I found particularly fascinating was the half-life of facts. The article refers to Samuel Arbesman, who discusses how facts decay over time or are simply no longer complete. It’s quite amazing how we, as humans, are constantly learning and evolving.

It made me think about the planet Pluto! I vividly remember in primary school having to create my own planetary mnemonic with Pluto being a planet. Later on, it was shocking to discover that Pluto was no longer considered a planet; however, I could not remember the reason why. I decided to look up and understand the reason why.

“Learning must be a way of being – an ongoing set of attitudes and actions by individuals and groups that they employ to try to keep abreast of the surprising, novel, messy, obtrusive, recurring events…” (Valli, 1996, p. 42)

After reading the quote by Valli (1996), it has made me reflect on what it means to learn. Teachers are no longer required to be sages on the stage but instead be the guide on the side. I believe that we have to question what learning means and how it would look like in our classroom. I find myself thinking more about what I want my students to understand and do rather than know. I feel that Valli (1996) captures what learning should be, especially in the 21st century. We live in a time where people are surrounded by plenty of information to utilize, and knowledge is constantly changing.

Chaos is a “cryptic form of order” (Calder, 2004, as cited in Siemens, 2005). I felt that this best described the amount of information that is available. It made me think about seeing a room full of books. Initially, you would see a vast amount of books. Then, you would begin to sort, organize and categorize the books based on the connections you made from your own understanding. I think that, especially now with how the half-life of knowledge is shrinking, it is important that students develop the ability to see connections, connect information sources and make decisions based on the incoming information.

Connectivism presents a rather complex and dynamic way of learning.  Learning is not limited to within the individual but can occur outside the individual (e.g. manipulated technology) and within organizations. It is about the decisions that learners are continuously making as the information is continuously being acquired and updated. It becomes of great importance to be able to decipher between the important and unimportant.

By understanding more about connectivism, it has made me think about how I could create opportunities for students to network, critically make decisions and reflect on the information they have found. I feel that I have been looking at the different skills individually instead of as a whole. It has made me think about what kind of learning experience I could provide to my students to practice and apply these skills holistically.

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