Learning through all the connections we have, or connectivism, seems amazing. The video The Networked Student is an inspiring depiction of what classrooms could be. However, I think about many of the students I teach and wonder if it is possible. My concern is the amount of reading that must happen in this way of learning. Many of my students are below grade level readers and when they see a huge page of text, they shut down. I try and limit the amount of reading they have to do and often read text out loud so those who struggle will still benefit from the information. I know there are apps or programs that will read text to students, but cost and computer availability is also a factor in students getting to access these.
My other concern is the social media literacy of attention. My students seem to have a hard time staying focused on the task at hand and are easily distracted by Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. The young girl in the Welcome to my PLE video mentioned that there is a pull to be on Facebook and other non-school related sites, but the sense of responsibility she had for completing class work would keep her focused. I question teenagers’ sense of responsibility. This may be, in part, because of the school I teach at. The school is in a very low socioeconomic area of the city and many students don’t have a computer at home or a smartphone. Therefore, when they have the opportunity to be on a computer, the draw of these sites is amplified. It would be for me too. Perhaps I’m doing something wrong, or if they had access to technology all day or for the majority of my classes, this draw would lessen. Herein lies another problem. There are only so many computers in the school and everyone wants them.
Enough about the negative as I do see a different and positive future for education using connectivism and technology. I really enjoyed the article Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media Literacies. One point the author made about attention spoke to me. He mentioned how his students sometimes panic when they are asked to set up a an RSS reader or Twitter account because they don’t know how they are supposed to keep up with all the information. This is me! I get very overwhelmed at all the information I see and the time needed to take in as much of it as I can. Thinking of social media as a flow instead of a queue is helpful. Learning about ways I can bookmark information for later use and deciding or being a critical consumer of the information shared will ease my feelings of anxiety around social media.
Photo Credit: seymer.adana
If I am to become a connectivist teacher, or at least head in that direction, I have a lot of learning to do. I will definitely take some of the technologies mentioned in these videos/articles and use them in my classroom. It’s a start, but I have a long way to go.