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Reflections on Topic 1 … Newton’s First Law. January 27, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD.
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my ple

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/4096836848/

Some of the questions posed during this #etmooc topic are ones I’ve explored before. Given the affordances which today’s communications technologies provide, it would be remiss (negligent?) not to reflect on how we might leverage the potential they might offer. So my explorations of the issues raised by “What does my PLE/PLN look like? How can I share it?” began a while ago. Here I settled on the term Personal Learning Ecosystem to describe the network I had assembled from which I could learn and to which I might contribute. I explored that two-way flow further in this post, then began to consider some possibilities of how that might extend into our schooland begin to answer “How important is connected learning? Why?”.

What I haven’t yet got to grips with is “Is it possible for our classrooms and institutions to support this kind of learning? If so, how?” In the strictest sense, of course it’s physically possible to support this kind of learning; none of the elements in the above diagram are inaccessible in school … depending on your filtering policies! However when I’ve tried to introduce colleagues to the potential that social networking might offer, I think it would be fair to say I’ve not enjoyed unequivocal success. I often wonder why that is. For some, the barrier might be the technology, though given the familiarity all have with email (excessive, many claim!), is it such a big step to a slightly different communication tool? Others do in fact use social networking tools … but for social communication, rather than learning, and perhaps resent the intrusion into their personal lives? Others may have concerns about their ability to manage the online safety issues, though that’s surely a matter of personal development? However I suspect all of these, whilst valid, are peripheral concerns; the actual reason why our ‘classrooms and institutions’ largely haven’t supported this kind of learning is because they are just that – classrooms and institutions. Associated with those terms are specific practices and expectations which bring with them historical baggage and introduce a degree of inertia. Learning in this way was simply not how classrooms and institutions ‘do’ learning … at least not until recently. Increasingly we are seeing individuals and schools pushing back the boundaries through initiatives like The Flat Classroom, Quadblogging, the Digital Leaders Network and through the connections made by individuals between schools and across international boundaries. There isn’t a day passes when I don’t see several posts on Twitter from educators looking to link their classes with others across the globe, or casting for comments on blog posts their students have made. I admit that setting out on learning this way might indeed be rather intimidating. I guess it’s like asking for date – you just need the confidence to give it a go, be prepared for the occasional knock-back and to develop the resilience to stick with it.

Earlier I used the word ‘inertia’ which to a physicist has a particular meaning I’m going to distil down as ‘resistance to change.’ Objects with a large mass have more inertia. Classrooms and schools are ‘massive’ objects with quite some inertia, but that doesn’t mean they can’t change; inertia can be overcome. It’s just a matter of applying a force, albeit it small in the great scheme of things, but keep applying it and change will come. The longer the force is applied, the more noticeable the change will be.

No laws of Physics have been violated in the making of this post!

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