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!

Saturday Morning Assignment

Our first task of the day is to find something to read on Google Reader, blog about it, then tweet. So I went back to an article I read by Scott McLeod on assessment 

High school grading: Mastery v. handing things in

One of the students in my data-driven decision-making class (for discussion purposes, let’s call her ‘Jen’) posted this in our online discussion area:

Most grading at the high school level is more reflective of responsibility (just handing things in) and not on whether the student has truly mastered the content.

There are a lot of issues embedded in this short sentence. For example…

  1. What does ‘true mastery of content’ mean (or look like) for secondary students?
  2. Does high school grading really get at the idea of student responsibility?
  3. If yes to #2, is ‘handing things in’ a good measure of student responsibility?
  4. Does student regurgitation of low-level factual recall items on quizzes and tests constitute ‘handing things in’ or ‘mastery?’

What do you think? Do you agree with Jen’s initial statement?

So here was my response to this post:

I was just thinking today about how I used to assign a business letter on the first day of my grade 12 English class. The purpose was for students to introduce themselves to me. I gave them a template and a model to follow, but I didn’t really “teach” the business letter.

And then I marked it.

“What the heck were you thinking!” I asked myself. “How can you mark something that you didn’t teach?” Well if I don’t mark it, they won’t see it as valuable and therefore won’t hand it in.

So now I would say to the old me, “There needs to be another reason for them to hand it in other than for marks. If you can’t come up with a good enough reason, then it’s probably not a valid assessment. And if you’re marking something that you haven’t taught, then you’re an evaluator–not a teacher.”

I would really like to see some innovative suggestions to get students to see the value in assessment that is not grading, ie. ways to get around assigning a mark for being responsible when that isn’t a curriculum expectation.

In our board’s report cards, we are asked to record learning skills but they don’t factor into any overall grades.

Should there be a separate grade for learning skills? Are students mature enough to understand the importance of completi

ng formative assessments for reasons other than grades? How do we make it matter?