This week, I found myself faced with the task of orchestrating the technological elements of our Remembrance Day Assembly. This involved accessing, combining and sequencing several digital media, including videos from Youtube, a powerpoint slide show, an iPhoto slide show and music files. While I am not exactly a proficient user of any of these tools, I felt confident enough to try and pull it all together.
In her article Catching the Knowledge Wave, Jane Gilbert summarized the ideas of French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard, who described knowledge as shifting from a thing to an energy of performative value that will be “..mobilized on an as-and-when-needed basis.” This was indeed my situation this week – I needed to mobilize knowledge to solve an authentic problem within an authentic task. (Gilbert, 2007). Accessing the YouTube videos was easy enough, but the problem occurred when the override password timed out during the middle of the video “A Pittance of Time”. I needed to find a way to extend the time or download the video so that we would not need to re-enter the password in the middle of the actual assembly. My efforts to download or embed the video were unsuccessful – I’m certain this is probably not a difficult task, but my lack of technical knowledge and limited time to learn were impeding factors.
The shifting view of knowledge as described above has significant implications for our educational system, which has traditionally involved the accumulation of information to be memorized and recalled without necessarily being utilized to fulfill an immediate or specific purpose. In my situation, I didn’t have the necessary information stored in my memory. I have not ever learned the specifics of how to download or embed videos, and my individual efforts proved unsuccessful.
Enter Connectivism. A helpful colleague offered to capture the videos required, and then uploaded them to the school server. Connectivist learning theories recognize that knowledge can reside outside of individuals, and connections help us to learn more than we are capable of knowing on our own. (Seimens, 2004). As quoted by Seimens (2004), Karen Stephenson states:
“Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. ‘I store my knowledge in my friends’ is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people (undated.)”
Another challenge I encountered was trying to split a song into two parts, which could then be embedded at the beginning and end of a Powerpoint slide show. Again, I did not have sufficient knowledge to instantly make this happen. This time, however, I did not seek the assistance of a colleague to complete the task for me, but only asked for time – time to explore and learn how to do this on my own. Given a ‘pittance of time’ to learn, I ‘Googled’ to find answers, and with 20 minutes of uninterrupted problem solving, was able to successfully put the components together as required. Hooray!
What then, are the implications of this week’s learning with technology on my own teaching practice? This experience has helped to solidify my understanding of the importance of building and fostering connections for my students, and providing them with time to access and mobilize information and knowledge for authentic and meaningful learning tasks. Adjusting our educational structures to provide students with opportunities to develop connections, and sufficient time and resources to access and mobilize knowledge should be the core focus of educational reform.
Gilbert, J. (2007). Catching the Knowledge Wave: Redefining Knowledge in the Post-Industrial Age. Retrieved from: http://www.cea-ace.ca/sites/cea-ace.ca/files/EdCan-2007-v47-n3-Gilbert.pdf
Kelly, T. (2008). A Pittance of Time. [Video file]. Retrieved November 2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kX_3y3u5Uo
Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm