report and first reactions

155 people from different time zones and countries (Poland, France, Canada, Australia, USA, The Netherlands, Brazil, etc) as as I log into the Elluminate room at 15 pm my time for George Siemens’ connectivism conference : “Learning Conceptualized through the Lens of Today’s World” . Sheryll Nussbaum is helping as a moderator. Although it is a diminute number if compared to the world’s educational community, it is a great feeling to know so many people give their time to be together to learn more so as to try to improve it for future generations.

George mentions how exciting it is for people who have been in the blogging scene for some years to realize through these networked conversations how things are changing and can be changed in education. He adds that one of the values of blogging is that it promotes conversations that come from the field.

I thoroughly agree. As a secondary school teacher this has been the case. I have never learnt and connected so much as in the past years. If I had not done this, my mind would have been geographicallyand intellectually restricted to the four walls of my classroom, of my home and of my close friends. I would have never had the chance to interact with experts and peers from different areas and my knowledge would have been limited to the books or conferences I was never able to afford the time or the money.

George points out to how critical context is as context defines our relationship with ideas, individuals. The way we speak is influenced by the context we live in.

We obviously have different perspectives from someone who lives in the USA, Asia, Europe or Africa. We see the world through our own lenses but the more we see the world, the clearer and wider our lenses become as we start perceiving patterns – that we have many things in common but because of the context we live in, our background and the way we were exposed to the world, we tend to give more value and importance to certain things than to others.

  • Linear evolution is not possible in the complex world we live in.

I do not think that the complexity of the world has anything to do with it. I do not think evolution has ever been linear…well it is repeated (patterns) but not linear. My idea of it is that it occurred in eruptions. Evolution, as we learn about it at school, comes to us through books, from what we learn about history and most of it was written during a certain context at a certain time. Battles were not linear, people´s thoughts were not linear (and poets and artists attest to it), the lived experiences were not linear although after reflection we try to order them and place them in a chronological progression so that we can remember it better or so that other people can make sense of it but we are really in a spiral – going back and forth, checking what happened, comparing it to the present situation and opportunities and projecting for the future. Writing is linear, roads are linear, a distance between two points (I am not good at Math) could be linear, I suppose, but not life and not learning or evolution. Life and learning have always been hyperlinks, even if in the past these were not virtual. Linearity for me represents discipline, control, order, stability, harmony – the classic concepts people are comfortable with as opposed to the disturbing romantic ones which consider the world in a chaotic state of flux.

  • Changes do not impact big institutions and the internet is impacting society as the Gutemberg press at its time.

Big institutions (not all of them, but educational ones for sure) are stable, solid and happy to be so and maintain this position and control, so they do not fluctuate or flow. They just sit there so they have become big, fat and morose. With size and weight, there is less and less flexibility, less mobility, less willingness to change. The machine has become too heavy to move. We, as individuals, feel the changes intuitively – sure we are living, throbbing, pulsating while the institutions, even though are populated by human beings, have become souless empty shells and the rules and bureaucracy direct the people who have created them making them feel trapped, dumb, and unable to react. In order to progress and grow we must become agile and fluid again. Technology should allow you to do this (even though you sit the whole day in front of the computer and instead of the institutions growing fat it is your *** that does).

  • Technology allows you to create networks, which fuel information. As our information base grows so does our knowledge

The information you have retrieved might help you develop your knowledge – it must be understood and processed beforehand. Google is doing it even though the machine does not understand it yet – the people behind it and admen have understood it a long time ago.
We can verify in a split second what we are told by googling so our relationship to experts and authority is not the same as sometimes we have information they do not and we can question them (this does not mean we know better than they do…we may be better informed, which is different)

  • Knowledge cannot be transformed into books as quickly as before because what we do today with the amount of information we have we rewire, re-structure knowledge – what is important is the creation, dissemination, annotation, ranking, rating. All is too quick to process so the focus has changed from product to process – from contained silos to distributed knowledge and the big challenge educational institutions face nowadays is that they still keep the old mindset: knowledge as a product.

For what I know, the old-fashioned mindset is still packaging the knowledge product well and selling it for quite a lot of money,thank you, while agile pulsating romantic educators distribute it freely (I’m one of them..maybe not so mentally agile after all) for the benefit of mankind and progress. Maybe if all educators did the same, the institutions would not have a raison d’être anymore. Hmmm…not in my lifetime, I’m afraid.

  • Abundance creates problems – you cannot process it. Technology allows us to extend ourselves as it gives us new affordances, new avenues for conversations which help you make sense of it.

Sure enough. Too much food for the body makes you fat and to much food for thought makes you go crazy. Share both (fast and frugal) with the largest number of people. The more quality you give, the more trust you earn, the more people around learn and the larger your network becomes. The more diverse, the more ideas you have to play with and be creative (if you survive).

  • What is crucial is to recognize patterns, form and evaluate the networks around us and accept that all that has been said until now) may be wrong and not work in your context (acceptance of ambiguity, uncertainty). In such situations, context drives approach and creative and critical thinking is a must.

Thanks God, the Brazilian context has forced me to live like this all my life (ambiguity, uncertainty) – maybe I still have the possibility of becoming a 21st century citizen after all 🙂

And as knowledge comes from the connection and the emergent ideas, let me not sit here alone but jog to the Moodle forum to see what is floating and flowing out there. Implication: tools are there to fullfill and enriching experience. I am experiencing learning 🙂 (Am I?)

I had to first get the keywords and ideas, note down the information, process them quickly, summarize them and give my first reactions. Let´s check what the other perspectives are now and try to understand where they are coming from, what the other contexts are.

Até mais.

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3 Responses to report and first reactions

  1. Susan says:

    Interesting reading!! I wanted to attend last night. Unfortunately I got very tied up…I fell asleep! I will have to put on the alarm next time to wake me up.

    My blogging problems are over and I can login again. Super! All I had to do was clean out my cache…easy as pie.

    hugs, Susan

  2. Maryanne says:

    Bee,
    I really enjoyed reading your reaction to George Siemen’s talk. I honestly haven’t had time to digest the ideas yet, but now you’ve shamed me into doing some reflection and posting. 🙂
    Maryanne

  3. Bee says:

    Looking forward to talking to you about it, Maryanne. It´s great to have other points of view on the subject.