connect, connected, connections, connectivism, eci831, teacher
I wanted to open with stating: “as a high school environmental science teacher, it is required in the curriculum to discuss how connected different environmental systems are, what we do in one, affects another”… but then it occurred to me that being an environmental science teacher only represents one branch of courses that involve connections… a social studies class observes and applies connections between the past and present…. a health science class observes the connections between nutrition and homeostasis. Connections are everywhere. This isn’t a revelation, it is reality. Enhanced reading goals call for students to connect their content between chapters and prior learning… we look at challenging our students for higher order thinking and it asks to create connections or use “simple” knowledge (which is growing exponentially) and apply it to real problems. An inquisitive mind looks to the next question or connects new information to old and teachers are, after all, in the business of creating inquisitive minds.
Conversely, we want to create digital citizens who are connected. Connectivism seeks to address the acquisition of knowledge through networking and “pattern recognition”… but where is the connection between connecting content (“pattern recognition”) and being connected (networking)? “Pattern recognition” would pertain to the connections made within a classroom discussion… oranges and lemons both have citric acid in them… given that pattern, it kind of sounds like citrus fruits that I hear about (connecting two separate subjects together while connecting to background knowledge). Networking addresses the vast connectedness of the world we live in today. As informed educators, of course we’d want to utilize both. Reinforced by the constructivist research supporting students combining prior knowledge with experience, we can see the value in connections to prior knowledge. We need to create that connected-digital-citizen student, and I believe it can be through connections using our curricula.
A cynic may argue: I can make connections, but how do I create a connected student in <class name here>? Buy into the idea, make the curriculum yours. There is clear writing as to what the outcomes are, but manipulate it. Interpret it. Speaking to teachers, how many times have you find an activity you loved and then had to think, “how can I connect this to the curriculum?” And you manage to do so, quite easily? Curriculum in Saskatchewan is progressing to an organic system. To quote myself (classy, I know), in an assignment while completing my undergrad degree, “curriculum constantly adapts and changes, it’s never complete, education has no ranges.” While the explicit, written document may not change in the conventional sense, there is a reason no class is taught exactly the same. Much like the biblical scriptures of yore, it is subject to interpretation to connect and find personal meaning and relevance… and the “no ranges” addresses the vastness of our networked world…
(Many would argue some of the new curriculum is too vague and may fail to prepare them for next level courses to which lower-levels are prerequisites, however if you can create a ‘connected student’, this may seek to combat discrepancies in how outcomes are taught class-to-class and simply teach a strong, connected learner).
There may be the perception this may not suit your style of teaching, but perhaps styles need to be refined. Versatility and clarity in organized chaos are the keys to engaging the connected student. Patience, humbleness and a calm composure lend itself to adapting to where thirty different directions of learning go. An educator able to make connections in chaos can create meaning and connected learners.
“Chaos is the breakdown of predictability, evidenced in complicated arrangements that initially defy order.
Meaning-making and forming connections between specialized communities are important activities.
Chaos, as a science, recognizes the connection of everything to everything.” – George Siemens
Creating the connected student calls on many digital understandings however, utilizing and critiquing different sources to establish a personal learning network doesn’t happen overnight and it can’t be left unattended… it is ongoing. Its prolonged growth requires the choice and freedom of the student, but how do you ‘enforce freedom’ to make them responsible? A quote that comes to mind is: “Freedom gives the inclination to be responsible.” In order to create that freedom and inclination, you need to let the student connect to the content to make it relevant, then they may want and understand it.
To connect to my previous blog, however, all of this depends on having a class in which every student has a computer and the resources to be connected. Without the funding for this, it makes it difficult for all this to become a reality. Example below, a grade seven student outlines their learning network. This shows created connected students is able to be done, but all the kids have laptops?! And a classroom leopard gecko?! Get outta here! My class just has fish!
Granted, we had this cute critter named “Frodo” last year:
We connected him to the need to maintain intact habitats and abiotic and biotic factors required for the healthy functioning of a terrestrial organism.
I feel I can connect everything to anything. And expect that same of my students.
How many connections do you make in your class?
What are some examples of connections and how does this translate to our connected world?
Is there a class you don’t think you can create a connected student in and why?
Author’s Post-Writing Note: if interested, hit CTRL+F to open up the find bar in your browser, and see how many times the term “connect” is used.
I think that connections are very important especially making connections between the curriculum and real life. I try to make connections in math between the curriculum and life so that students don’t always ask, “Why do I need to learn this?”. It sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t and is sometimes hard to do. I would like my students to develop PLN’s in math and I hope to work on that next year when I’m back to work. I couldn’t agree more when you say it’s an ongoing process and constantly grows. I also agree that it’s hard to do when students have different access to technology. I know as a teacher I need to do a better job of changing the way I do things and going beyond the walls of my classroom. It is a process that’s for sure. Thanks for sharing!
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Kristina Boutilier said:
52 times. I think you got your point across! 🙂
I really like how you mention that the curriculum should be an organic document and grow and change with your needs. I think teachers who get “stuck” teaching the same thing year after year, the same way are detrimental to our students. I agree the curriculum is broad, but I believe the room for interpretation is where the magic happens. This is where we move from the simple to complicated to complex.
Do you think you need a 1:1 ratio in order to created connected students? Don’t you think this could be achieved with a limited amount of devices in your room? I believe it can be. Couldn’t we reformat the way we do things in our classrooms to allow everyone a chance to use the device on a certain day, time, etc?
PS — Frodo is way too cute!
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Nathan Bromm said:
I agree with Ashley- make connections to real life and especially to their lived experiences. Kids love to share and love it when you share. We get off topic lots in my class- but it is really a tangent and then we reconnect with what we’re doing. Those teachable moments and connections to their experiences are so important in making the curriculum content more relevant. Then the other definition of connecting- to digital technology and communication- again this makes learning more meaningful when they can connect to other learners on the web. Think if you have a project where they can network with some experts on a topic or share with like-minded students. That sure makes learning fun and more relevant when they see others engaged in the same things.
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Logan, this is so insightful. You are the kind of teacher that I hope my kids will have! As a Learning Resource Teacher in Regina Public I don’t get to make connections in exactly the way you speak of. (I really miss being a classroom teacher for exactly this reason!) Regina LRTs have been encouraged to do a lot of LLI (Leveled Literacy Intervention) to increase student reading achievement. LLI is highly prescribed so there is not much room for creativity and tangents (which I am all about!). However, I find I am constantly helping students make connections between their own lives and the stories we read. This isn’t always easy because I work with students who come from very low socioeconomic backgrounds. The stories we read are usually not about or for them. I also make personal connections with my students. We talk about their real lives all the time (those are our tangents, I suppose). So when I think about it, I guess I am helping them realize that they are connected to society; to the characters in a book who are not very much like them in many ways. But that, truly, people have more similarities than differences.
By the way, my husband is also a high school science teacher, teaching the environmental science course at Campbell Collegiate. He has a teaching partner who he works very closely with. You might want to *connect* with him also! 🙂 You can follow him on twitter at @shaynemcm88
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