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:


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

  1. Hi John,

    Re: Your reflections of our views on teacher power in P-12 classrooms.

    Even in Prep year there is shared power and negotiation of learning but there is also some structure and a definite learning purpose involved.

    The part of connectivism I have difficulty with is the initial introduction into the learning to generate autonomous learning and the ‘show me’ what you have learnt. I fully understand about ensuring the learning is meaningful, purposeful, engaging and connected to the students & their lives at that time and ensuring students explore & investigate at their own pace and levels. However if I asked a student from P-3 to ‘show me’ what you have learnt (and I have), their initial response is ‘what does that mean?’ or ‘what do you want to see.’

    I remember in one prac, while still at Uni, going into a Year 3 class discussing a topic, negotiating a task then expecting them to ‘go to it’. Needless to say they were baffled, confused, unsure, etc. They needed just a little more support, encouragement and scaffolding to help them feel ‘safe’ to risk take in the task.

    I guess what I am saying is that some students are not confident in themself to learn autonomously or of an age where they know how to go about it. Therefore some structure and scaffolding is necessary to guide them into developing life-long autonomous learning skills.

  2. Hi Ruth,
    Fully agreed. I think I have experienced the same feelings of confusion when exposed to some “new and unclear” activities or ventures. I remember this story. When I was at Grade 5 (11 years old), a novice teacher (under teacher preparation and training course) instructed us to play the game of “bow and arrow” in class, a “Robbin Hood” sort of game. Each of us took turns as the “target” with 2 to 3 others took turns to shoot. It was fun, but I wasn’t sure what the purpose was. And some of us were disappointed when we missed the target, as most kids couldn’t aim properly. Though everyone laughed and enjoyed. In retrospect, it was one of the most interesting activities to train kids on motor skills, though more safety measures (provision of goggles, safety suite, and words of caution) should be used, and a debriefing should be given. Still then, I wonder how much a young kid at that age could understand.
    Another incident happened when I was in grade 7 (13 years old). The teacher instructed us to catch some cockroaches, and to oberve the lifespan of such interesting “creature” and its ecology. I was the only student who caught a few live cockroaches, put them into a jar and cover the top with a paper punched with some air holes. The teacher locked the jar into the cupboard. Then, after a few days, when we attended the science session, the teacher opened the cupboard, but then found that the cockroaches all crawed from the cupboard, dashed and danced all around the classroom. And all of our classmates including me hopped up and down to catch them back, or even stamping them. You could imagine it, screaming, horrors, Oh! missed it! Got it! Wasn’t it funny? Wasn’t it exciting? Did I learn? Luckily, no one was injured, including the cockroaches. But I felt rather odd and confused, because I was the only one who obeyed the teacher’s instructions in the first place, and then there… was the embarrassing moment when the cockroaches found their way, and I had experienced one of the most exciting, but chaotic moment in my learning.
    In reflection, I didn’t understand the hidden meaning or learning at that age, but now I understand what could be done instead, to turn it into a rich, purposeful, meaningful learning experience.
    Nothing teaches better than such games when one is still young, and some structure, scaffolding and debriefing is deemed necessary to reinforce the concepts and learning points.
    How did all these compare to the e-connective learning? I learned a lot through practical hands on at that age, and my experience could be further enriched if I have a chance to explore the wonderful virtual world, just like Alice in Wonderland through connections.
    Thanks for your response.
    I have plenty of interesting anecdotes to share. How about yours?
    What sort of guidance do you think would be important with your experiences with those young kids?

  3. Pingback: CCK08: Week 9 Stacks « Clyde Street

  4. Pingback: Power in class and networks – implications of connectivism on k-12 | Connectivism and Networked Learning | Scoop.it

  5. Pingback: Power in class and networks – implications of connectivism on k-12 | Connectivism | Scoop.it

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