Shift in thinking?? My Tortoise Brain

I often come up with a great comeback line about 3 minutes after I need it. I like to think about things, let my brain process information and then respond appropriately. After reading Blooms Taxonomy Digitally and Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age I feel that if my thoughts are shifting they are doing so slowly and carefully. No surprise there, my brain moves slowly.

I found it fascinating that the article on Connectivism begins by telling us how rapidly information changes. “Half of what was is known today was not known 10 years ago” states the article that was updated in 2005 – 10 years ago. I have no doubt that there have been many incredible discoveries by some very brilliant people and groups but I find it hard to believe that the American Association of Training and Documentation have a reliable way to quantify it. There is a lot of information on the internet, there is a lot to be shared. But quantity is not quality. I am skeptical of some “new” knowledge. In the words of Darth Vader – “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you have constructed.”  I am a bit of a skeptic and I think teaching some healthy skepticism is not such a bad idea.

I don’t think Connectivism is a new concept in our world. For example,  the idea that “Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources” is certainly something we have experienced before. Our school systems have generally become more an more specialized based on the level of instruction (high school, undergraduate, masters, etc) and apprenticeships in the trades are built on the idea of teaming someone with little experience and knowledge with a specialized information source. What has changed perhaps is the  where we find the specialized nodes and information sources. How can we vet this information? How do we know what is reliable and what is not? This is the crux of good Connectivism learning in my opinion.

I believe in learning communities. I know that there is wealth of amazing information on the internet. When I decided to try to learn to play the guitar I began by seeking out friends that knew how to play. I asked them for advice on good resources in the internet to help me learn and to offer me suggestions for getting started. They continue to act as a learning resources for me. When I am struggling with something I ask for their advice. I also found others who were at the same stage of learning as I was so that we could be a support for each other by sharing successes and failures. It’s also more fun to learn in community! Two of my three nodes have been available long before the internet existed. My youTube teacher could have easily been replaced by  a local teacher.  We shouldn’t forget about our more local and face to face nodes of expertise.

Of course, youTube has many advantages (clearly since I have decided to use it as my main instructor). Again, I believe that the most important way to use the information and networks effectively will be to learn and teach our students how decipher the good from the bad, the misleading and just plain inaccurate and to weed it out. How do we guide our students? How do we know for ourselves? We seek out more knowledgeable sources to help us vet our information.  These are the exciting connections that I think can really drive our thinking forward. The chance to follow NASA Astronauts or the Louvre Museum for example. There are still experts in the world. There is still wisdom in the world. I think we need to choose wisely who we follow on Twitter, Google+, etc. We can connect with world leaders or world haters, experts or charlatans. Who we are connecting with is important. Quantity is not quality and we should teach our kids to slow down so that they can analyze and evaluate sources carefully.

5 thoughts on “Shift in thinking?? My Tortoise Brain

  1. I think your observation that with the increase in information available in the world, we need new ways of knowing “what is reliable and what is not” is so important. The internet is remarkable in its ability to break down traditional models of knowledge where those with authority have it and disseminate it to everyone else–which is a great thing. With that comes the ability and the need to explore the credibility of and justifications for the information we encounter.

    I recently did an assignment with my new IB TOK juniors where I sent them a link to an article on a “9/11 truther” website and asked them to write about why somebody might believe those claims, and why they (presumably) did not. They had a lot of insightful things to say about the ways in which their education has made them more critical of poorly evidenced claims, but also about how when information-based claims are bundled with emotion-based claims, it can be hard to sort out credible information from non-credible information. One of the issues with connectivism seems to be that since the theory is about networked knowledge and relationships, all information passing through the network at any particular node is bundled with a set of relationships and understandings about the world that affect our assessment of the new knowledge. I thin your post really hit on the need to make this more visible to ourselves and our students.

    One last thing: thank you for the link to your Youtube guitar teacher! I have a guitar sitting around that I’ve never learned to play, and I’ve been meaning to remedy that–so I will definitely use it!

    1. Emily,

      That sounds like a fantastic assignment for you juniors. I’ll bet it was quite an eye opener for them. I love your point about information based claims versus emotion based claims. As I was writing this post I was thinking about my Facebook feed. World events like the Syrian Crisis and the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that allows Muslim women cover their faces during their citizenship ceremonies (which has now been appealed by the government) had people trying to prove their opinions with the “truths” that they found. These “truths” were more or less believable based on your perception of the event, where you live in the world, how you feel about the situation, etc, etc. Truth is not always easy to determine!

      Thanks for reading and sharing your comment on my Blog!

  2. Andrew, I love your focus on learning communities. I think I always took them for granted and just figured that they were a part of ‘PD’, but now I am beginning to re-think their power. From belonging to a book club, to taking this course, to our ‘Think Tanks’ (for those outside of AIS-R, it is a bunch of teachers who get together once a month to discuss a topic, the most recent one was on ‘Third Culture Kids’) , there is something about this sharing of ideas that makes me think about things in new and different ways.

    I have been working hard this year to foster this same sense of learning community in my classroom (shout out, You, Me, Community!). I believe in the power of working together towards success, and encourage my students to recognize the importance of supporting one another to achieve their best. I taught two sections of IB Literature last year: one section was distracted and individualistic, and in the other section, the students just seemed to care about one another. During discussions, they worked together to achieve deeper understandings, they took peer editing tasks seriously and took the time to help each other out. I would describe them as a true learning community. Both classes overall were equal in skills and abilities (a mix of high,medium and low achieving students). Can you guess which class achieved higher IB scores? Interesting to look at the power of learning communities, with the data to support.

  3. Andrew! I too am a tortoise brain! And it drives many around me insane. I too like to take my time, consider my options, think about things, and then take informed decisions. I think I have slow processing grey matter 🙂

    Like those above me, I completely agree with what you are saying. I know from my own learning that most of what I still remember came from working with a learning community – ones that were face to face, the only real kind back then. Times have changed, not for the best or the worst, times have simply changed. Evolution is constant and inevitable.

    This sentence “my YouTube teacher could have easily been replaced by a local teacher. We shouldn’t forget about our more local and face to face nodes of expertise.” really made me think about the strength of the internet. The internet is free and accessible on demand. You don’t have to look for an instructor or set up specific time that works for both of you. That is the strength of the internet. Let’s teach the kids to use it to it’s strength and create content that is worthy of being put online. Thats the biggest challenge.

    Just like in the classroom, we ask kids often “will your question or comment add value or augment our discussion?” if it will then say/share it. Otherwise, think about what might add value? educate? raise awareness? and then share it online. Because some tweets, even from my PLN, are shameful/ridiculous at times. And it’s not just the tweets. I am not a social media fan because I feel that we aren’t educated enough on what the proper ‘netiquettes’ are. Are there such things? If not, we should develop them. I sometimes feel we are the generation of educators that have the biggest responsibility when it comes to technology and its useful purposeful use.

    I think the beauty of the internet and learning online, is the fact that it’s on demand and free. Well, except for the internet subscription. Anyone who wants to learn can learn. Anyone. Even my 8 year old son who watches how to create ‘things’ on minecraft video tutorials. Lets teach them not only how to sift through the information, but also how to create content that is worthy of being published – if they want to create – no pressure to have to create. Let’s be our own critics and augment the information available online for future generations. Not everyone should be published. Not everything should be published. We have a responsibility to teach our kids that.

    After all, if you can’t beat them, join them. I hope I added value to the discussion 🙂

    1. Yep! I wrongfully use the term technology in my post! You are right, your definition of technology is the same one I have always thought of. I misused the word in my comment. Can I say Information Technology? Wait, let me google the definition. IT: noun -the study or use of systems (especially computers and telecommunications) for storing, retrieving, and sending information.

      No not that either.

      So, its internet. Let me rewrite my thought : “I sometimes feel we are the generation of educators that have the biggest responsibility when it comes to teaching children to navigate the internet and use it’s content/information purposefully.” I think that’s what I meant in fact…
      And Sorry for not being precise 🙂

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