Standing on the shoulders of Giants

“What Descartes did was a good step. You have added much several ways, and especially in taking the colours of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

Isaac Newton to Robert Hooke – 1676

Connected learning is nothing new, but it is being massively re-imagined for the digital world. We are more connected now, but I know that I don’t use those connections as well as I possibly could be.

During the Introduction to Connected Learning session, Alec Couros (@courosa), posted some questions as blogging points for #etmooc this week. At the moment we are half way through two weeks of looking at Connected Learning, and there have been some really interesting points raised about the need for connectedness in educational settings, and also about how it is that we, as educators, can facilitate that in our students.

One post which has stood out for me was by Karin Gitchel when she was blogging about Week Two of #etmooc. Now she posted a video, which I watched and then shared on Facebook, and it led to a discussion at dinner last night about the importance of connections when trying to build knowledge. Now while I was having dinner with fellow teachers the conversation wasn’t just about education, it was more generally how the connections which are building are assisting with creating something new in another space (we were talking about photography and learning new skills there). But we were also a bit reflective on how this type of sharing, learning and questioning – on this scale – wasn’t available to us when we were of a slightly younger age. We could have written letters I suppose, but being able to ask “Giants” immediate questions in 140 characters or less with some chance of an answer wasn’t available to us. This is a new skill which we have to learn. This is a new set of social norms which we need to be able to operate in, and a new set of literacies which we are trying to figure out. Now I still punctuate my text messages, I am getting better with Twitter, but that is mostly out of necessity that I am beginning to embrace “text speak”. Rules of etiquette are still there and they aren’t always as visible as people think. But I digress…

Chance favours the connected mind – Steven Johnson

Making connections is really important when trying to develop the right approaches and ideas. But they need to be the right connections, my question is… how do we know it is right? How do we know which Giants to stand on?

The Internet is a big place, and filtering out the noise is a challenge if you don’t know how to. Learning how to use tools properly (such as using Google with search operators and conditions) assists, but so does building a network of people who you can trust. My personal learning network is really tiny. The trusted voices are there and they are growing in number, but I wonder if my “walls” when it comes to online communication are getting in the way of making connections which would really help me. Now I am going to go out on a limb and say that I am not on my own when it comes to this. I know that I have suffered within my workplace for something which was misunderstood within the digital space, so this has made me hesitant to participate as much as I would like to.

Perhaps the key to this is chance. If chance favours the connected mind, then perhaps it is time to jump in and connect a bit more, and trust that it will be okay.

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5 thoughts on “Standing on the shoulders of Giants

  1. Thanks for your honest post. I was struck by the line “This is a new set of social norms which we need to be able to operate in, and a new set of literacies which we are trying to figure out.” So true. I think that these norms and literacies are learned through experience. Sometimes we’ll get stung by making a wrong move, but we have to stick with the process. It’s not the end result that shows our learning, it’s our journey.
    As for PLNs and who we should stand on… I think you just come to an understanding over time. Sometimes we want to just lurk and take in all the information, which is fine, but if we really wants to grow out PLN and find “giants”, we must participate in others contributions and conversations.

    • Thanks Brent. I agree, the norms and literacies will be created and learned – but then I would like to think that they will then evolve and change again.

      I am beginning to come out of my shell with the (public) online communication side of it all, participated in #etmchat, commenting on blogs and generally trying to be more “present” than I traditionally would be. The beginning of a new journey perhaps?

  2. Pingback: 1000 is a crowd | Cathy's great Mooc adventure

  3. Great post. It does take time to come out of ones shell in a PLN and the online education community, but once one does it is well worth it as there is so much to learn! I hope you keep going at it and adventuring with us all in the #etmooc

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