Connectivism is Now: Fostering Global Connections

"Knowledge is a networked product."

— George Siemens

Dr. George Siemens’ overview of connectivism is a reminder of many of the things I’ve learned in my COETAIL courses thus far.

He reminds us that knowledge is formed in three ways: biologically, conceptually and socially. Connectivism, according to Siemens is:

  • “driven by understanding decisions,
  • rests in a diversity of opinions,
  • may reside in non-human appliances,
  • nurtures connections that build learning,
  • fosters connection making as a skill and
  • provides practice in decision-making.”

In the final few weeks of this school year, I’ve had more experiences of applying connectivist learning theory in my classroom than previously. Yes my students have connected to one another in our classroom using Padlet, Google Classroom and with others in our school but there have been two opportunties to bring connectivism to life in the receent weeks.

As we began these opportunities, I was reminded of Kim Cofino’s advice  in making these global connections. Earlier in the school year unfortunately opportunities had been attempted and not worked well so in light of this I made sure that I had a plan and things were well mapped out and agreements made between myself and my collaborative partners.

The first opportunity came to us via our school’s technology director. He emailed with an opportunity to connect with a class in Taiwan using Mystery Skype. The technology coordinator in Taiwan had organized the format and after meeting with our Elementary School technology facilitator I decided that not only did this authentically connect with our math unit about mapping but also provide an opportunity to connect with other third graders across the world. We used the format shared below and took turns asking questions. If you haven’t used Mystery Skype in your classroom, do! It’s easy to find other classes on Twitter using the #mysteryskype or even just give a shout out for fellow COETAILers and I’m sure someone will be available.

During the Mystery Skype I observed my students:

  • applying their map skills including directional and map type vocabulary,
  • making inferences,
  • listening more actively to a shy classmate who is a Chinese speaker in our classroom and
  • working collaboratively to solve a mystery.
Getting ready to ask a question.

Getting ready to ask a question. Photo by Megan Looney

We figured out their country was Taiwan! Photo by Megan Looney

We figured out their country was Taiwan! Photo by Megan Looney

Also, I’ve had the opportunity with the Global Kind Project which I wrote about here to connect with two classes, both in the United States. With one class, in the western region of the U.S. we used Padlets and shared videos as our school hours didn’t overlap. We also responded to one another on our blogs as well. Since doing a bit more reading, I realized we also could have used a slow chat format on Twitter to also respond to one another too. We’ve connected with the other classroom in the eastern United States also using Padlet and this week will have a face-to-face meeting using Google Hangout (new to me) and we’re playing a kindness probability game (which aligns with my final math unit – added bonus) my collaborative teacher shared and I’ve shared with you below.

Mystery Skyping with students in Taiwan and meeting students in the United States, both provided opportunities for my third graders to build knowledge in a connected way. It was social, their learning was created through their networked experiences. It was built through making connections and in these connections we also learned about one another’s interests and opinions.  My students are so excited but they’re not the only ones. I see more and more ways how I can incorporate global connections next year and I truly can’t wait.

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1 Response

  1. Ken Fernandez says:

    Greetings Megan,

    Do you remember the days when corporate networking was all the rage? When groups or companies held networking events so that clients could connect and drum up business? Things have changed! Global networking has become an integral part of our world and, as educators, needs to be an integrated part of our classrooms and schools. George Siemens is spot on when he talks about learning as a socially connected process that forms conceptual connections and promotes deeper understanding. You witnessed it in your own class! Here at Lincoln we’ve had some positive success by Skyping with experts such as Nepalorado (link to yourhub.denverpost.com) who helped support our fifth grade service learning project. We’ve also Skyped with authors. Like you, we observed kids making inferences, making connections, and being truly motivated. The reflections that came out of the students from these experiences demonstrated critical thinking and connections to their literacy unit. They are many authors out there who are willing to work with classrooms. I suggest asking your school librarian. And, as you mentioned use the COETAIL network. All of us here at Lincoln would be happy to connect with you!
    You also mention how global connections frame student learning and I fully agree. What also frames the learning is being well planned, having guidelines, and teaching kids how to interact and “network”. Your detailed outline is a great example. It’s what all teachers need to do before they jump into Skype calls. There’s plenty of leg work to do before and after a call, but that’s what makes it so rewarding and powerful for the kids. Let’s keep the “connectivism movement” going! Thanks for the Global Kind Project tip too.

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