Coming Full Circle: Reflections on Technology and Connectivism

spiralPhoto by Jim Moran

Two years ago I went to an OTF and ECOO sponsored conference called Expanding Our Boundaries. When I attended that conference, I was relatively new to the world of web 2.0, social media, and theories of connectivism and constructivism. I know that for a fact because I have a digital record of it. Here’s my blog post from February 27, 2009.

It’s amazing to me to read how giddy I was about learning about hashtags and Twitter’s potential. I was a recent convert to Twitter, but still pretty much “new” to it. I had been blogging sporadically for about a year, but I was just starting to see what a valuable tool it was for my own reflection and professional development. (Boy do I get that NOW!) I was also particularly silly about the fact that Will Richardson had responded to two of my tweets.

Then if you go to the next post, I had to find a blog post to read and comment on in my own blog and then tweet about it. I also put in a video that I recorded that morning, and to my delight I can see people I now know like Zoe Branigan-Pipe! How amazing is that?

So today, because I’ve been lucky enough to form great connections with people like Doug Peterson, Cyndie Jacobs, and Brenda Sherry, I’m back at the very same conference with Will Richardson, but this time I was a panelist on last night’s discussion about social media in the classroom. I’ve been able to help other teachers who are newbies like I was, and I’ve been able to connect with people who I follow on Twitter.

Today’s most amazing moment came when Will was showing everyone how people shared links in Twitter and found that George Siemens was about to start an Elluminate session with his class so Will just clicked the link and had George talk to the entire room about Connectivism. I tried to record it on my iPhone, but it didn’t turn out very well. It was a pretty incredible moment for teaching the power of the network. It was also pretty fun when George tweeted some hellos to us.

It’s astounding how much can change in two years. Truly astounding. It’s hard to imagine a time where I didn’t have a network of brilliant and talented people who help me solve problems and provide me with inspiration. It’s equally hard to imagine a time when I didn’t actively reflect and question my own pedagogy. I feel very lucky to be where I am right now. I’m can’t wait to see where I’ll be two years from now.

“Coming Full Circle” is probably not an accurate title for this blog post, because nothing is being brought to a close here. It’s more like a spiral. You get the idea.


Deep breath.

Let’s keep learning!

What is Connectivism?

or “How I Went Searching for Answers and Found Myself–literally.”

The topic for tomorrow night’s MEd class is Connectivism. It’s a topic that really excites me because it confirms a lot of things that think are true about 21st century learning, but my professor presented us with these questions to consider in advance of tomorrow night’s class.

1) Connectivism lives largely in the cloud. True or False?

2) Tweets and blogs seem quite apropos for elucidating connectivism, but what is missing here?

3) How would we know if connectivism was NOT true?

4) Would connectivism work as an explanation of learning in the absence of technology? How? (or why not?)

5) What would you say are the facts in support of connectivism?

I’m finding some of these questions very tricky. Here are my attempts at answering them:

1) Largely? Yes, I suppose it does because connectivism is the view that knowledge and cognition are distributed across networks of people and technology and learning is the process of connecting, growing and navigating these networks (Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning). It exists in different ways at neural, conceptual, and external levels. So it’s not all in the cloud.

2) Tweets and blogs would only help elucidate connectivism if people were reading and commenting, making that network clear. You could in theory, tweet and blog and never interact with another person. You would be missing those external connections. When someone responds to one of my tweets like they did when I was looking for ideas for a 2020 math class, they pushed and expanded my thinking. The connections are essential.

3) Uh…. (elevator music playing sofly) … I guess I would know connectivism wasn’t true if you could learn as much in complete isolation as you could with your connections–I hesitate–nay resist the word “node” because it makes me think of those growths singers get on their vocal chords. I admit I find this question really challenging.

4) Does connectivism as a theory work in the absence of technology? I think parts of the theory work without technology, but at this point in my thinking, connectivism without technology kind of looks like social constructivism. Which makes sense because connectivism has evolved from constructivism and cognitivism. I … (okay I’m hearing the elevator music again.) I’m not sure.

5) I think this blog is evidence in support of connectivism. When I compare my professional practice before blogging and Twitter to my professional practice now, I’m astounded. Granted, I think even without my PLN I’d be a better teacher now than I was seven years ago just through experience. But I feel like I’ve got a much better tool box now.

So in trying to prepare for tomorrow’s class (because I’m really interested in this topic and I don’t want to sound stupid) I did some research. I looked at George Siemens’ blog where I looked at a presentation called Connectivism and Changing Times (which was interesting, but looking at statistics and graphs make my eyes bleed) and then I decided to check out his Twitter feed.

I saw this tweet

georgeI follow Alec Couros on Twitter and I always learn from his posts.  I was curious about Alec’s presentation so I clicked on it and I could see how Alec was building on a lot of the ideas in George’s presentation but his examples were easier for me to relate to.

And then I got to slide 56 and figured that if I set out to figure out what connectivism was and it eventually brought be back to myself (in a completely literal sense) was done research for the night.

I’m still having trouble articulating what I’ve learned but I’ve definitely learned something.

A Vision of Education in 2020

For my graduate class I had to write a paper outlining and justifying my vision of eduaction in 2020. I’m pretty sure I haven’t exactly rocked the APA format, and I’m also pretty sure my professor didn’t intend a 3000 word paper, but I had so many ideas I just couldn’t contain myself. Then I remembered that I had to to cite everything and it just…well…snowballed.

My vision is not an ideal vision. It’s not an edutopia, but I think it’s a logical vision based on current trends and research.

A Vision of Education in 2020

Note: I screwed up the first time I posted this. Should look nicer now.

Why you should be on Twitter


Photo credit

There are a lot of people who have written great posts about why you should be on Twitter ( Laura Walker

Jason Renshaw to name two).

This is not one of them.

Well, not really.

I just wanted to take a moment to post some screen shots from this weekend. I was working on writing a paper for my graduate class on learning theories where I was asked to imagine what education might look like in the future. My plan was to narrate a day in the life of a typical high school student in 2020 and I wanted an idea of what a 2020 math class might look like. I’m an English teacher. I needed help.

So I posted this

my tweetAnd here was my first reply:


And then…3(keep in mind, replies that I’ve taken pictures of in chunks read from the bottom to the top)


4It gets better


I know it’s a bit confusing to read those chunks from the bottom to the top but you get the idea right? My professional learning network on Twitter makes me a better teacher. Connectivism at work.

You might also want to check out Why would teachers want to use Twitter?

Why Rodd thinks you should be on Twitter: