Monday, October 13, 2014

Connected Educator Month: Paul Oh-Connected Learning for a Connected World

Paul Oh
On October 10, 2014 Paul Oh, from the National Writing Project, presented a talk on Connected Learning at the University of Minnesota. I had a chance to interview Paul a few years ago for an EduWin Podcast, and it was great to finally meet him in person and hear his thoughts on connected learning, and education. The event was co-sponsored by the Emma Birkmaier Critical Literacy and Urban Education Speaker Series, the Learning Technologies Media Lab, the U of M Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and the Minnesota Writing Project.

Oh started out his talk asking two questions:
  1. What was an interest you had as a young person that you were passionate about? 
  2. Was that interest recognized in the school you attended?


The room was evenly divided as to whether they had the opportunity to pursue their passion in school. 
He provided examples where people have taken an interest in a topic and followed their passions outside of the typical school curriculum. 

  • For those younger, was it related to “Harry Potter.” HarryPotter Fan Fiction.com 82,000+ stories from 37,000+ young writers. The statistics on the right show just how popular this site is with people interested in writing.
  • How many were able to listen to "You Can't Touch This," in school? How many were able to write their own hip-hop lyrics, or create their own dances?
  • Could you play “Super Mario Brothers” in school? Oh asked us to guess how many units of the game have launched? 40 million +! Few made it into schools. Videogames were not for school. How many schools ban video games now?
  • In an ode to Minnesota and the upper midwest, Oh asked, "how many got to make hot-dish in school?" 
commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spider-Man_2099.jpg
For Paul, his passion was Comic Books, specifically, Spiderman.
He loved the stories and the illustrations, and tried to emulate them in his writing and drawing. He loved the rhetorical methods authors used to create “cliffhangers.”
He went to some conventions with his friends, and met people even more passionate than he was, dressed in the costumes of their heroes. Together they were trying to guess what would happen in the comic book story, and share a common bond.

Today, online, sites like Comic Book Resources, allow people to connect and share ideas and ask questions about comics. There were 27,000+ posts since April just about Batman. How many places can you find that much writing about a given topic? 


Networks allow us to connect and collaborate over our passions.

Minecraft is another example. Every 24 hours, 6,000 people sign up for Minecraft.

Oh quoted Will Richardson, who shared how his son had a problem using Minecraft and developed a group to solve problems and share ideas.
Most of these passions are explored outside of school rather than inside of school.
Oh talked about how these passions were often looked on as distractions from the “real” purpose of learning. He noted that who owns and directs the learning can have a big impact with this:
Teacher Led vs. Student Led

Oh asked, "What if we deeply understood how people learn today: curiosity, experience, connections?"

In our district, we have tried to set up some opportunities for students to follow their passions and interests through projects like the Apathy Project, the 9th Grade Government Service Learning Project, the 10th grade Pre-AP English Passion project, and May Term. While the basic framework for the tasks is teacher led, students have autonomy regarding the topics and how they will design and demonstrate their learning. Adding the component of the student taking action and developing a shared purpose is what  Service Learning is all about! 


What if we designed for learning in a connected world?

Oh believes that education is struggling to learn its role in this connected world. This world needs Connected Learning, an approach to learning that is at the heart of the digital media learning initiative:
Goal: Give young people the ability to take advantage of the affordances of the networked world.


  • ·  Massive number of connections exist across networks
  • ·  More like a matrix where people change jobs and move in different paths
  • ·  Current education model is only designed for a single path
  • ·  School is the only node In most people’s ecosystem
Peer groups, social media, employers, videogames, interests, Websites, civic institutions, Mentors all play a critical role outside the school to factory model. How can we connect these?
Connected Learning attempts to make these connections between the places where learning happens, even in school, under the support of a mentor.
Oh believes public schools are still a critical part of this network.
Connected Learning
Interests………….Academics
In School………....Out of school
Online………….....Real World
Self………….Peers
Connects Learning

Connected Learning is NOT:

  • About shiny digital places.
  • Don’t Fetishize the gadgets!
  • It’s about the learner and a mindset about ethnographic research.
Learning is experience connected to the world 
Connected Learning is…

Institute of Play- Student Charles Rabin photos showing that everyone is unique. Systems thinking. Learning can happen anywhere!
Take charge of your own learning, follow your passion!



Note in the video that there WAS a mentor assisting Charles. Charles also mentions the value in the act of publishing, not just taking the picture, but publishing to a wider authentic audience.

Oh mentioned a book he has been involved in, Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom.
“Educators need to see themselves as designers of learning context!” 
-Christina Cantrill
Examples of educators doing this:

Oh argues that a critical piece is the pedagogical shift toward connected learning in a connected world.
Expanding the notion of what it means to be literate today
Collaborating
Oh is hopeful that the Connected Learning Movement is truly showing signs of having an impact.
·         #WHGameJam is an example.

“We need to equate lifelong learning with lifelong playing, just like we equate classroom reading with lifelong reading.” 
-Chad Sansing

Educator Innovator-a network of networks working to connect educators around the world.

It was great to connect in “real life” with Paul and hear his thoughts during Connected Educator Month.  He concluded by sharing how higher education has moved towards connected courses-such as Howard Rheingold and Mimi Ito's Connected Courses: Active Co-Learning in Higher Ed as an example.

Oh ended by encouraging us to be an “intelligent medium for action!” quoting John Dewey from 1885!

Q and A

  • Oh mentioned the Trust Challenge, an effort to solve the problem of student data privacy and legal ramifications. The challenge is open till the beginning of November.
  • What is the relationship between connectivism and connected learning? Connected Learning recognizes many pedagogies that incorporates several principals of connectivism by co-constructing knowledge. Connected learning differs in that the focus is more on elements like civic engagement and shared purpose, which isn’t necessarily a component of connectivism.
  • What makes a great Makerspace? A great Makerspace would have many types of tools to play with and construct based on their interests, an chance to iterate, and  Time and space to reflect. 
  • How do we assess what happens in MakerSpaces? Often, it’s hard to pause in a maker space. Are there automatic things such as video/images as you’re making. Many times you are itterating after you’ve made it. (Has Apple ever had a "summative" evaluation of the iPhone? Will there always be ways to improve it?

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