Sunday, October 19, 2014

Unit 3 - Nuggets

There were so many nuggets, inspirations and threshold concepts that arose from the two keynote videos/hangouts from Unit 3 - Connected Courses that I’ll develop my nugget from those, rather than from the readings.

Besides, I’m reading E.B White, and Bill Bryson, and a John Brockman compilation, ( I know, lots of white guys), plus this community read right now as well as this from the same group of high school students. There’s a lot of reading material with active bookmarks on my end table, so the provocations will come from the videos.

First off, recognizing the difference between the internet and the web and the acknowledgement that living on the internet is something that all of us do carries profound implications for educators and learners.  Laura’s imperative of community, the creation of opportunity to connect with many of share a common interest, in a many-to-many community is intriguing.  The attempts that I’ve seen to do just that have been both clunky and fruitful, and worth exploring further.  Kim Jaxon’s comments  about the huge potential to connect students to communities of practice in the world resonated particularly well, given her classroom experience both as a connected teacher and learner.  And Gardner’s impassioned ‘rant’ (at the beginning of the first video) about the web as a distributed publishing system owned and operated by its users, plus the importance of digital community, and our responsibilities as archivists and curators as educators and citizens, was inspiring.   

These other threshold concepts resonated:Network effects and the power of the network, coupled with the core competencies of reading, writing and participating on the network.  We need to teach and promote web literacy, really citizenship in the digital age.   What does it mean to be a member of an open, digital, rip and remix culture?  

The more we use open platforms and resources that don’t look like school, the greater the opportunity to reshape what teaching and learning really looks like.  Kim raises the big fear that without a change in teaching practices (what takes place on a daily basis in the classroom, among students, between students and teachers and organizations), open courses, indeed using the Web to teach, will be just another ‘solution.’  As educators, we buy into solutionism, purchasing turnkey content, platforms and assessments from vendors, and by doing so, miss the opportunity to create our own in collaboration with others across the Web.

Networks are complex ecosystems, and how learning works in a complex organism is different from the linear fashion in which courses, programs and colleges are designed and assessed. Do you have to learn by steps?   Is there developmental work to teaching and learning how to use the Web?  Probably,  but Gardner posits that teaching and learning, building community on the web just may be a way of being that you learn by doing it.   I’m struggling now to figure out how to support faculty to move beyond learning little steps, beyond how to just use hardware and applications, and toward how to use judgment and talent to engage and empower students, and to connect them with stronger bonds in a wider network than just the classroom.


  1. Andy, this is such a helpful "nugget." I really like the point you make at the end "...beyond how to just use hardware and applications, and toward how to use judgment and talent, to engage and empower students, and to connect them with stronger bonds in a wider network than just the classroom." I hope to share this with my grad students this week in our version of the connected course. Thank you and happy Monday!

  2. I struggle with the "small steps" question with my colleagues, too. I honestly believe that true progress in learning is as much about discontinuity as it is about smooth linear paths. To go from a "B" to an "A" is not simply a matter of polishing the "B." The qualitative difference is discontinuous. And the same goes for the commitment required to adopt connected learning as something other than a bolt-on methodology or "tool." It requires genuine, deep, risky commitment, and that's scary. But in that moment is where the learning lives.