A Journey in Educational Technology in the Curriculum
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Networked Learning Discussion

My reaction to the critique of Massive Open Online Courses presented began with an identification with Brennan and then an appreciation of several of Downes’ rebuttals. I agree with Brennan’s perspective emphasizing the importance of self-efficacy (something that he says connectivist theory ignores). As a learner myself, I need to check in and know that I am on the right track. I also appreciated his warnings against too high a cognitive load.

Downes, however, contends that we should slowly gain competence rather than all at once, and that course designers should recognize that need. His analogy of new google users and the gradual entry was something that I could relate to, as my lessons whether technological or not, start off with a general introduction, and then I re-teach as necessary through the gradual release of responsibility. I disagree with him that as adults we shouldn’t need reassurance because I like to know when I am on the right track.

Downes raises a valid point: “connectivism is not constructivism – there is no obligation for the educator to be absent, and he or she should feel free to ‘teach’, to ‘preach’, or make their presence felt in the course as much as they wish, the only limitation being that this presence is as a participant and not an authority figure”. A great deal of approaches to learning are focused on how to tap in to student’s creativity and need to explore while also balancing the delivery of content and the understanding of curriculum. I found myself applying Downes’ perspective to my view of education (whether technological or not).

One term that was emphasized in my teacher training was Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development where students are provided necessary scaffolding to help them achieve their learning goals. Connectivism reminds me of it, only it is not just the teacher scaffolding the student, but all learners. The possibilities presented by connectivism in the Montessori classroom are great, as we already do much of what Downes describes: the “guide” gives a “perfect” presentation to the student to show them the optimal way of working with a material, then the student works with it on their own and tries to figure it out for themselves. The guide will observe the student and at an optimal time, “re-present” the lesson in a perfect way, but never tells the student how to do it: that is the mystery they must figure out for themselves, through self-advocacy. They can ask other students or observe other students as they work with the same material. Older or more advanced students are encouraged to give re-presentations to their peers as everyone learns individually and collaboratively.

The challenges presented by connectivism if it were adopted in my current teaching environment would be difficult because I am no longer in a Montessori classroom, making the participant role of the educator as a part of a classroom learning environment much more difficult and an easy way out is to re-assume a more traditional role.

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