Humans are social creatures.
It’s these social interactions that build our identify and sense of purpose. If we identify and spend time with good people, we’ll tilt towards honorable behavior. Likewise, spending time in a toxic work environment will drag you down into the cess pool. As we celebrate the 30 year anniversary of the world wide web, it was curious that its creator, Tim Berners-Lee, is dismayed at how his creation which was intended to share information freely has had the unintended consequences of hate speech enabling, fake news sites, public monitoring and a strange focus on the private lives of our celebrities. Well, he is not dismayed at that last one, but I certainly am.
Connectivism is the educational learning theory that stresses social relationships and that learning is a group construct of beliefs and opinions of many people across a number of networks- face to face and digital alike. Since people around you result in your success (or failure) it’s within our interests to spend more time with people that inspire and motivate you, rather than belittle and alienate. Since the FCC fairness doctrine was revoked in 1987, there has been a surge in conservative new outlets in the late 80’s and early 90’s with some left wing outlets rising to the fight propaganda fire. Confirmation bias keeps users entrenched to media outlets that share their own thoughts and opinions and brainwash them to be dismissive of beliefs that differ from their own. It’s this that forces me to watch media that I don’t agree with and to spend time with people that have views that differ from mine in the hopes that we might educate one another to our point of view.
Experiments in ‘Edchats’
Our latest iteration of connectivism was a ‘Pub PD’ twitter event that I facilitated for staff at a local pub last week. Pub PD is a monthly get together where dozens of schools around east Asia join via twitter hashtags where educators chime in on topics and learn how to improve their twitter skills by leveraging tweetdeck and modeling good digital etiquette on variety of topics. The topic this time was the importance of play in education.
People started the twitter chat by reaffirming their beliefs with likes and retweets, (typical for coaxing people out from the lurker to contributor tier on social media), but after comfort and safeness was established, the conversation shifted to some more interesting prompts:
1.) Think of a belief that runs contrary to your values as an educator. How can you find common ground?
2.) Which tools help you the most with workflow efficiency? Are there people that dislike them? Why?
3.) Imagine professional development at your school. Why are some people resistant to it?
These dissenting views have always interested me as an teacher and how to constructively build this discourse should be the ultimate goal of education towards creating a democratic society and helping us find common ground on thorny issues. After all, if there is anything that I learned in graduate school, it’s that if you’re looking for research to support your thesis, there is always research that disproves it as well.
Immediately afterward, I started forward thinking to our trip. What if classrooms wanted to connect with us next year when we were in the field? Could we share our location to classrooms as virtual field trips through connectivist culture? Tools like periscope and youtube live might be nice for teachers and students to visit places along with cultural and environmental issues that we see and give the viewers an opportunity to interact through us. Would our good intentions and appearance be sullied by internet trolls? Probably.
Poking around my social media feed found a ‘Connected Classroom’ project through Google + wherein users can sign up for meets with correspondents who report from around the world. With so many outlets for us to share our story, there might be opportunities for us to share our story. Could we use this opportunity to build a better connected world? Could that be quantified in some small way?