Sunday, April 12, 2009

Connectivism and constructivism

After reading and re-reading Chapter 2, "Students and Learning," from the book web 2.0: new tools, new schools by Gwen Solomon and Lynne Schrum, I think the two major take-away points for me were the discussions of connectivism and constructivism.

The potential for not just making connections, but also for finding connections, has increased dramatically in the last few years. The much-vaunted ability to "think outside the box" can also be thought of as a facility for seeing connections that most others miss or, equally, as a facility for understanding when preconceived connections are not truly the limits that others consider them to be. What a valuable life-skill this is!

Equally important is the concept of constructivism, a sort of building blocks approach to education, as opposed to the idea of presenting students with a discrete set of facts and information to be memorized and regurgitated, with information and topics neatly packaged by school grade and student's age.

The ability to connect students with distant learning partners is exciting. And there are so many options to choose from - other students; other teachers; professionals in the field, allowing students to learn about a topic from varied points of view; people who know less, allowing the student to become the professional and the teacher. The other thing I find particularly exciting about these sorts of projects is that the possibilities for intercultural exchange are nearly as endless. Without traditional visual stereotypes to guide us it can be much easier to be tolerant of differences and perhaps more appreciative of the benefits of a more varied and diverse setting - whether it's in school, on the job, or at home.

I was also pleased to see the refinement of Bloom's taxonomy with its inclusion of "creating" at the top of the pyramid and with its slight change of focus from thought to action. Using labels that are verbs rather than nouns really does seem to reflect some of the changes that have developed in the last few years. There are many more changes hovering just out of view - it's exciting to be looking at so many new ways of bringing this sort of learning into the classroom.

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