Same, but different

A major goal for me over the past two weeks has been to build routines and habits around the use of digital tools (Twitter, Flipboard, Feedly) with the purpose of getting informed and connected.  I knew early on that this would be important for me if I wanted to maximise my growth from this course, and to internalise new practices and for these new practices to continue in my life after the course has finished.  It has become my habit to flip through Flipboard, Twitter and Feedly on the commute home each day.  I look forward to skimming over the ‘cover stories’ and seeing what catches my eye; reading some articles in depth and scanning others; scrolling through the twitter feed, and in some cases exploring the links to more information.

It was while I was out for my evening walk (the time away from iphone, ipad, and computer – the time when I start joining the dots with what’s happened in the classroom and what I’ve been reading and learning) that a realisation hit me.  That is:  forming routines and habits around information is not a new phenomena at all.  I thought back to my childhood and clearly remember dad coming home from work every night around 5:30.  His routine was to grab a drink and sit and read the town paper.  There was even a procedure about this.  Start with the headlines, sport section, weather, birth and death notices, and who’s selling what.  A little later it would be time for the 6:00 news – a chance to get the most up to date information on the headlines and of course more information about the weather.  The next morning, the radio would be on while we got ready for school/work and on in the car on the way to work; again more information.  Dad was staying informed and connected to his immediate world around him and beyond.  Seeing the parallels in my dad’s habit and my own felt reassuring.  But I also began to look closer at what’s changed?  What’s different?

What’s changed is that information it is now a two-way process.  We can now participate in producing news and content; no longer only a consumer.  Another change is the volume of connections between the information, and people and the doors that open as a result.  It was on a ride home this week that a door opened as the most recent tweet caught my eye.

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 11.11.10 AM

Three words stood out:  globally collaborative project.  I’ve been looking for something meaningful,  that fits in with existing curricular objectives and suitable for my age group.  This ticked all the boxes.  I’m signed up for this project and excited to be starting.  But the aha moment was that this opportunity came as a result of a system and routine.  System:  Twitter – set up to follow people working in my profession and areas of interest.  And a new routine – reading Flipboard and Twitter on the way home .  Had this came out three weeks ago, I would’ve not seen it.  Had I not started a new routine with checking in to Twitter I would have missed it.  I did no go looking for it.  I did not spend hours searching the internet for such a project; it found me (with the help of the system and routine).  Now I see the potential in these social network sites.  A real purpose and reason for using them has formed.  And for any learner this is key.  It has to be relevant and meaningful and with purpose.

Twitter is still a little alien to me.  I’ve been browsing a lot not only to see who’s saying what, but to see how.  I’m still in the deconstruction phase of Twitter: meaning the phase of the learning cycle when students are considering “What is the social purpose of this genre?  Who uses it? and Why?  What are some of the language features?  What is the relationship between writer and reader?  I have tons of questions.  There are heaps of good resources to help, plus willing colleagues (@morzh @MumbaiMaggie) who answer my questions.

Same but different.  The new feels more comfortable when you can connect it to the old.

Connect the Dots

Do you remember the connect the dots activity from your childhood?  You draw a line from 1 to 2, 2 to 3 and so on until the picture was revealed and you sat back proudly at your accomplishments.  This week I’ve been connecting the dots and while the complete picture is not fully developed, I am beginning to see the start of it.

Connect the Dots Flower by mazeo
Connect the Dots Flower by mazeo

Connect the Dots Flower by mazeo

These past two weeks, I’ve devoted time to setting up a RSS Feed (Feedly) and Flipboard and hours reading/scanning the content flowing in, but the dilemma faced is when to stop reading and start writing. Exactly which of the many interesting ideas, theories, or new thinking do I want to zoom in on and share?

I feel like I need to stop working to have enough time to read all that is out there on education, technology and the role of technology plus many more interesting related and somewhat unrelated topics.  However, without my present and future students, and educational decisions in my daily life, it would quickly lose relevance.  It’s all about the information you need now.  ‘How best to meet the needs of the students in my class?’ is what I need now.  No students.  No need.  This is what resonated with me after reading Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age.  His conclusion nicely tied everything together (remember the dot picture) and what has left an imprint for me is the idea around access versus possession of knowledge.  “Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today.”  “Access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.”  So many conversations turn to or linger too long on what to teach; let’s remember the conclusion of George Siemens and perhaps ask ourselves “What skills am I building through what I am teaching that will allow students to access what they need when they need it?”

 So if all that I’ve read this week are the dots (Connectivism, Using Scratch for digital storytelling, Superheroes of the maker movement, Copyright issues, Recruiting Using Social Media,  Blooms’ Digital Taxonomy Map, Planning lessons around technology, and many, many more) what picture is forming?  The picture that is being revealed is that the landscape of information is constantly changing and we need to be smart about that.  We need to build systems to help us maximise the landscape (not just survive it).  Using tools like Flipboard can help as it flips the process of me finding information to information finding me.  That’s been a major focus for this week as I’ve set up RSS feeds and Flipboard.  I’ve been creating systems and I’ve had to think carefully about what’s important information for me right now.

 What picture have you uncovered this week as you’ve joined the dots?

 References:

Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age by George Siemens