Where have they been?

I have just finished listening to the UStream session and the very last 5 or 10 minutes made me prick my ears up. The question was put to SD and GS – Give one simple practical suggestion for implementing connectivism in classrooms (with children). The suggestions were

  1. Connect classrooms from people round the world.
  2. Encourage children to work together to participate in a real way to produce something real of benefit to society.

Neither of these ideas is new.  My first experience of networking across schools was when I was at school myself in about 1962 or 63, when a group from my school in the North of England linked with a group from a school in London (which in those days might as well have been in a different country) to work on a project. Since then I have experienced this kind of activity both nationally and internationally, both as a learner and teacher many times. The same is true of working collaboratively on ‘real’ projects to produce  a recognisably useful outcome. Interesting though that collaboarative group work doesn’t seem to have been built into this course. Not yet anyhow.

No – I think Dave Cormier is much nearer what the change might need to be and that is in a negotiated curriculum. We need to start encouraging children to negotiate their own curriculum. Even this is not new. I remember that at least 15 years ago, when teaching 5 and 6 year old children, I once started the half term’s work by asking the class to plan their own work for the 8 week period. They were perfectly able to do this and planned a wonderful topic based on a nursery rhyme, in which they were able to say what maths, english, science, geography etc. etc. we would need to work on that term.

What is new for me – but not completely new is allowing students to negotiate their assessment. I have done this in the past as well – i.e. asked children to work together to determine assessment criteria and then peer assess, but there has always been a limit to how far I have been able to go with this because of quality assurance standards.

It seems to me that for connectivism to be useful to education, some of the issues surrounding assessment and a negotiated curriculum need to be resolved. In particular, I do believe it is very important to determine whether it can be applied to young children’s education.

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