Three events occurred over the last week which got me thinking that education is falling actually behind the interconnected curve which is our digital society.
1) My own wife’s thoughts about how our son takes on problems, in her blog post “On tippy toes”. Here I appreciate the determination to succeed independently shown but I am also reassured by his continued reliance on the people around him.
2) My own year 11 science class just completed an in-class essay where they were required to bring in notes reflecting the unit question – How do we know what is a good fuel?. Then once they arrive in class they are presented with the specific essay question. During my wandering around class and looking at the pre-prepared research I found an e-mail from a senior student explaining how to get the best marks in this particular assignment with regards to how it has been previously set.
3) My reading of George Siemens excellent introduction to the learning theory of connectivism – “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for a Digital age”. In this article he states “When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.”
Each of these examples captures the importance of being connected. To me these experiences show 1) we are a social being 2) we can be motivated to use society for our benefit 3) this social learning is already being studied (and has been for almost 10 years).
Yet considering these absolutes I don’t feel that the assessment tasks in education presently reflect the ideals of connectivism. This statement repeated in the Edutopia article – How should we measure student learning? For example my own tests still take place in test conditions with no communication with anyone else – so not providing the opportunity to use their connectivity to their benefit. My essays are on topics undoubtedly (although I work hard for this not to be the case) done by someone before and here I take a, hear no evil and see no evil attitude and provide marks oblivious of the increased benefits of connectivity each cohort of students has. The for classic science laboratory reports the previous problem is undoubtedly amplified even further.
So now I need to develop assessment which both acknowledges and encourages connectivity. Yet here I am constrained by an assessment rubric which does not provide the opportunity for a truly challenging open book test. I believe project based assessment tasks provide better opportunities which I will try to develop. In fact I would like to integrate such ideals into the energy transfer unit which I am presently revising.
So in conclusion I return to a quote from George Siemens’ article – “The field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.”