Last week I attended a meeting at my workplace (a university) to assist with organizing a conference on blended learning. The committee consisted of a few staff members with general interest/knowledge of BL, members of our IT team, some faculty, and one senior admin. Some of the faculty members that were in attendance were newer to the profession, while others have been teaching for many years. Although all faculty members had an interest in BL in some form, it was interesting to see the varied opinions, questions, and range of concerns and misconceptions. What is BL and what is considered BL? Have I been using BL techniques in my teaching already and not known it? How is this going to change my job? If we bring this here, what does that mean for me and my support staff? How do I begin to incorporate BL into my classroom, and get my colleagues on board as well?
I couldn’t help but think of the Starkey (2010) article that explored the connectivism framework. When I first read the article, I interpreted it as applying to faculty and students in the classroom since that’s how it was written. Now the teacher is no longer only the content expert, but is facilitating the learning experience for his/her students. They are the ones that make connections, encourage students to explore, all while using new technologies to enhance the learning experience (Starkey, 2010). Beginner or experienced, they were the ones that needed to rethink pedagogy in order to meaningfully incorporate technology in the classroom to enhance the learning environment for students. But who was making the connections for faculty? Who was going to take on the task of showing them what was available to them, how they could use it, and why it would benefit their students?
As I looked around the room, I realized that was us! Connectivism applied in this situation as well. We were facilitating a learning experience for those that would attend the conference. Because of our education, experiences, and background, the integration of technology into the university seemed like it should be easy. But as we explored possible concerns and misconceptions, we realized how the connections will need to be demonstrated for some. It was up to us to design the content and delivery of the conference in a way that best showcased the benefits of blended learning. As Starkey (2010) notes, “[a] central idea in the learning theory of connectivism is the continual expansion of knowledge as new and novel connections open new interpretations and understandings to create new knowledge which contrasts with constructivism where the focus is on individual learners constructing meaning” p. 234. That is the goal of the conference – to create connections, open minds to new ideas and understandings of a topic that some may not know much about or that have opinions that may be unwarranted. Connectivism applies to faculty and students in the classroom, but also in a PD environment where faculty may themselves be the students.
Starkey, L. (2010). Teachers’ pedagogical reasoning and action in the digital age. Teachers & Teaching, 16(2), 233-244.