This is cross posted from the College’s 20/20 Vision blog, www.arcticcollege.ca/blogs
Many scholars acknowledge that we are in the midst of a huge social change brought on by the growing influence of the digital world. I argued in my previous post that humans survive and thrive through adaptation, and by learning to use new tools for survival. George Siemens suggests in his defense of Connectivism, a learning theory he developed, that “ Tools change people. We adapt based on new affordances”. In this paper he also adds that: “Too many educators fail to understand how technology is changing society. While hype words of web 2.0, blogs, wikis, and podcasts are easy to ignore, the change agents driving these tools are not. We communicate differently than we did even ten years ago. We use different tools for learning; we experience knowledge in different formats and at a different pace. We are exposed to an overwhelming amount of information requiring continually greater levels of specialization in our organizations”.
So if you, like me, are not very knowledgeable about the new tools and the participatory digital world, what can you do about it?
A simple search on Google or one of the powerful search engines that most of us use from time to time will bring up an almost endless menu of free online courses, webinars, and mini workshops that teach how to use the tools and /or get engaged in the digital world. Join a MOOC, such as Change11, and you will immediately be connected with an extensive network of knowledgeable, digitally savvy educators from around the world. If that seems too overwhelming, join a smaller online learning community. Some of us need more help. We need an invitation to jump into the water! or even a little push.
In my experience I have found that one of the best ways to learn new skills and encourage the mind shift that becoming a citizen in the digital world entails is to join an online learning community. Many online communities operate according to principles of participation and mutual learning. Henry Jenkins, MIT media scholar, describes the online learning community as a good example of the emerging participatory culture. He describes some of the elements of online Learning communities as: “strong support for creating and sharing creations with others, some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices, members who believe that their contributions matter, and members who feel some degree of social connection with one another (at least, they care what other people think about what they have created)”.
These functions are clearly demonstrated in the learning community that I have recently joined, Powerful Learning Practices. Powerful Learning Practice uses a new model for professional development for teachers at all levels, that offers opportunities to:
• Work together collaboratively to understand 21st Century learning environments through immersion in these environments
• Re-envision their curriculum in ways that are relevant for today’s learners
• Manage change through communities and networks
This model is currently enabling thousands of educators around the country to experience the transformative power of the social Web: Face-to-face in their own schools, exchanging ideas through a community of inquiry, and in re-envisioning their own personal learning practice.
The warm caring members of the community that I have joined support and encourage me to grow professionally and to try new tools in a safe, authentic learning environment. I am currently enrolled in one of the online courses offered by the PLP, Connected Coaching. This course like U of Regina’s ec&i831 which I took last year, is providing me with the opportunity to join a new (to me) affinity space where the skills of the group are pulling me towards their expertise and exposing me to new ways of thinking about learning and teaching.
Once you figure out how to join the online learning revolution and jump in, there is no end to the learning opportunities and resources that you can access. Come on in the water’s fine!