Power – I had a dream! With acknowledgement to Martin Luther King

I have this dream of looking for full control of my learning some 30 years ago. I resisted unwarranted power exerted on me, especially when it related to my learning goals and strategies. I had started the journey in questioning the legitimacy of power and control exerted by the teachers for a long time. And I found that learning was in the control of the institution and the teachers back in the 70’s to 90’s. I was surprised to find that the only person who could assess and grant me a pass was the “lecturer or teacher”. I started to reflect why the educational system was structured like that, and that why learners were to serve the teacher, and not the other way round. However, without the deliberate efforts and patience of my respected teachers who guided me throughout the learning journey, I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of the educational system.  Now, I have got my questions answered. As a teacher, I realised the importance of sharing of power and empowerment of learners, in learning and assessment. It’s still not too late to support and inspire our fellow learners to achieve their goals and meet their needs. 

Further notes after posting: I just found such notes from Network Logic page 95,   http://www.demos.co.uk/files/networklogic.pdf  which echoed with my suggestions that:

Teachers are like the network leaders, they start with the deepest needs of their learners, and work back to establish the configuration of organisations, resources and capacities needed to meet them. 

“Network leaders start from the outside-in. They start with the deepest needs of their users, and work back to establish the configuration of organisations, resources and capacities needed to meet them. The task then is to find ways of persuading other organisations of the need to work together.”


Will connectivism provide part of the solution?  Time will tell.


Power in class and networks – implications of connectivism on k-12

Hi Tom, http://whereoldmeetsnow.edublogs.org/2008/10/29/control-issues-cck08/
I echoed with your views in that as an adult learner and professional teacher, I never like being told what to do, in a class without good reasons.  And especially if someone else is trying to control my teaching/learning without my consent.
Throughout my 23 years of teaching (and learning), I have encountered different challenges, especially when teaching teenagers (around sixteenth to nineteenth).  If the teenage learners are not ready to shoulder their responsibilities, then I would have to be patient in guiding them through in their learning journey.  This includes teaching them the concept of mutual respect, self awareness and control through various activities and critique.

In a classroom where student discipline is still important, it could be a chaos if everyone is talking with each other on irrelevant topics (mere chatting on trivial matters, giggling etc) at the same time.  Under such environment, the students could hardly concentrate in learning due to the noises and distractions, and no one could listen to the teacher’s instructions.  So everyone loses.  And what a waste of time and resources!  That is poor education and learning.

Setting of ground rules in the first few lessons (with the adequate sharing of power) with the learners is important.  A reminder of the ground rules in subsequent lessons will ensure learners are aware of their rights and responsibilities in a class.  Adequate and regular reviews of such ground rules would deem to be necessary if there are constant disruptions in class lessons.

In order to avoid the boredom of lecturing, I often use small group discussions (with Socratic questioning) and collaborative and relevant learning activities to reinforce the learning points.  This would then be followed by plenary discussion in which each group’s contribution is valued, shared and summarised.  This allows my students to share their ideas, debate and report in a constructive and responsible manner.  In this manner, power of learning is shared amongst the learners, and they would also see the power (of influencing) in a positive manner.

I see power associated with such action is not only legitimate, but necessary.  I would not relegate my power as a teacher in the classroom to ensure that the environment is conducive to learning.  And that’s how I maintain my integrity, accountability, and responsibility as a teacher.  What do you think?

Are all the above issues absent in digital connections?  I don’t think so.  As discussed in Network logic http://www.demos.co.uk/files/networklogic.pdf , networking as a process is emergent, with weak ties and new connections forming in an amorphous manner.

“They are all around us. We rely on them. We are threatened by them. We are part of them. Networks shape our world, but they can be confusing: no obvious leader or centre, no familiar structure and no easy diagram to describe them. Networks self-organise, morphing and changing as they react to interference or breakdown.

Networks are the language of our times, but our institutions are not programmed to understand them.

As individuals, we have taken advantage of the new connections: to earn, learn, trade and travel. But collectively we don’t understand their logic.”

Racism, sexism, sex, pornography, violence, hatred and evils are floating around in different connections in the virtual world.  Without adequate guidance from adults, are we sure that our teenage learners will not be attracted to those connections?  What are we going to do about it?  Can we police the evils?  How can we ensure that our coming generations are able to discern such evils in digital networking?

Power of power

Power of power

So, is connectivism still practical with K-12? http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/moodle/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=1048

My reflection of the views from Ruth, Jon, Jo, Carlos, Sharon, David, Ariel, Ken, Wendy and Catherine could be summarised as follows: power of a teacher in class is necessary in K-12, especially when teaching those learners who are still at a developmental stage (K-8).  And that gradual sharing of power through negotiation is desirable when the learners become more mature.

So, I think connectivism still has a role to play, especially in the higher classes – grade 9 – 12 where students are ready to further develop their metacognition skills using information and communication technology (Web 2.0, search engines, mobiles, and internet etc).  However, teachers would need to consider the feelings and emotions associated with such e-connections with their learners.  And thus guide the learners in e-connecting with others or sources on the internet in a safe, and responsible manner.  Discussion of feelings and reflection of learning on the internet could be shared and reported to the class, where merits and demerits of the use of technology are thoroughly critiqued and evaluated.  This ensures that students appreciate the importance of mutual respects, trusts,  choice of selection, critical thinking, e-ethics, and the implications of such e-learning in a virtual learning environment.

Learning in an inhumane manner via “improper connectivism” destroy us as a human.  Because, we learn through our senses, emotions and feelings, and that make us a better person, not a better “machine”, which could be switched on or off.    And we have empathy in which no computer network or artefacts could ever learn.

At the end, I would like to quote Jenny’s comments on her post on power, authority and control


I’d be much more concerned about the influence he could have on my thinking, i.e. his knowledge power, and whether that influence was appropriate for my learning and development as a human being.”

Thank you so much for your inspiring post.  Great food for thought.
You are welcome to comment on my blog here on Power in class and networks:

Power on fire!

This is my response to Lisa’s post Control by Personality http://lisahistory.wordpress.com/

I read the post with great interest.

“It seems to be the perception of power that is important”… “As with all effective aspects of learning, personality may be another overlooked element…”I echoed with your view and insights. 
As a teacher myself, I had never taken drastic actions without first consulting my learners (all adult learners).  I realised that a teacher’s integrity lies with “one’s walking the talk”.  So unfortunately, the spirit of networking has been greatly affected, and I don’t think that’s conducive to learning, especially for adult learners and teachers.  My comment is based on an incident, rather than based on a person.  And as I am not a learner looking for credits, I didn’t want my comments to affect others’ grading.  And I realise how upset people (co-learners and lurkers) are.
However, I think this is a revelation that a teacher’s “great knowledge and power” doesn’t come from inside of that person, but from outside.  And I learnt that respect can only be earned if a teacher is truly “compassionate, empathetic and knowledgeable to and engaging WITH the learners or teachers – peers”.  May be that’s the missing element in connectivism??  Is it?
No one likes to learn without emotions or feelings, otherwise we will become the computers, which could be switched on or off by others.  And I do not believe that computer can “learn” as much as human do, and as smart as human too. 
Do you think you and your students share such feelings or emotions towards power?  Is it the reason why connectivism is so “hard” to stay alive if people are just “connecting” without feelings?  Or are people really connected? I have seen such happenings often in organisations, and the result is…I would NOT be bent with power…., though anyone could play with it.  But it is like playing with fire.  It hurts.

Thanks for your inspiring post. 
You are welcome to comment on my blog https://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com