Monday, April 09, 2007

The Open Source Classroom

School is full of frantic energy as of late. My brain's certainly moving in every direction at once.

To top that all off, I've been keeping up with my feeds fairly fiendishly. This does not do much to calm the multi-directional thinking. One post from Dean Shareski that stuck in my head was actually about another post on Will Richardson's blog.

Dean picked up on a phrase I've noticed Will using a few times since I began reading his blog "pushed me to think." It's a phrase, ironically, I hadn't consciously used before picking it up from Will. The past two years, though, I've caught myself using the phrase in discussions with colleagues, when encouraging my students to find a new way around a problem and even when talking to my dad about the craziness intertwined in parenting my little brother.

Now, I've been pushing and pushed to think for as long as I can remember, but I cannot think of a time when I was as aware of my thinking, as reflective on my thinking as I am when interacting with texts and video and resources afforded me through web 2.0.

I say this all because I'll be starting my Master's work this June. It's my first real formal return to studenthood since graduating.

This year, I've been learning in the manner I want my students to learn - I've been exploring, problem solving, information sharing, researching, and discussing. The worry is that entering an atmosphere where my learning is directed by a teacher, where I am not directing my field of inquiry will prove a frustrating task.

I did well in my first 18-year run at studenthood. A game existed in the traditional classroom which I was well-suited to play. I cannot say I learned as much as I should have, but I can definitely attest to succeeding in school. Success and learning were not necessarily closely linked. Success and completion, certainly.

My performance was aligned with expectations and that led to increased opportunities. I was rarely truly engaged, my studies rarely as rigorous as I could handle.

Since then, this past year especially, I've been directing my learning in the direction directions most interesting and important to me. I've been creating my own classroom 2.0. I worry that I won't be able to revert to the earlier version. Imagine running Windows 3.1 after you've been working on XP.

Maybe, though, my resistence isn't toward moving backwards, but to moving to any set structure. The learning I practice online, in Web 2.0 isn't really XP, it's open source. Through blogging and podcasting and the like the thoughts of people like David Warlick, Karl Fisch, and Paul Wikinson are open to me. I can pull from them the pieces that most motivate and intrigue me and then add my own pieces while crediting their sources.

I find the patches I need to bring continuity to my thinking and help my pedagogy run more smoothly.

This is the resistance I've felt to what is symbolized by the monikers of Web 2.0, School 2.0 and Classroom 2.0. My learning - the learning I want to engender in my students - is learning that is meshed together from what they need and seek and offer up.

The classroom in which I want to learn and teach is one undergoing constant upgrades and bound by no particular version. No proprietary rights exist to its content, but all educators are fairly acknowledged and credited for their contributions.

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Paul Wilkinson said...

Goodness me. I nearly fell over to have my name mentioned in the same sentence as Karl Fisch and David Warlick. That puts pressure on me to post thoughtful comments rather than the usual drivel I muse about. :)

Actually I wanted to respond to your post because you hit the nail on the head for me in thinking about the type of learning environment I want to be creating for my students as well as the environment I want to be learning under. I too have started my masters this year. So far I am hating it. I have spent the last four or five years completing a post grad diploma in ICT education. The courses were all online and the experience was fantastic. I could study when it suited and was able to tailor the assignments to my interests. This year the masters paper I have started is delivered by distance (not online)(go figure). I received in the post a video of a presentation given to the face to face class, two weeks after the class and one day after the assignment it related to was due. The fact that I don't own a video player compounded my frustration, which was then exacerbated by my request for a DVD being actioned after I had to chase around and email the tech guy at University, who kindly made me the DVD but forgot to finalise the file so it wouldn't play. All this gripe is to say... It shouldn't be so hard. If I am able to so quickly get used to learning online that I am frustrated when I can't get the information or help that I want at my fingertips, how much more frustrated will a younger generation than me feel?

To some people this may sound like pathetic whining on my part, but really! I like learning online. Was it Will Richardson who wrote recently a letter to his children talking about University? I'll have to go back and find the post. Whoever it was commented on the fact that a university education may not be the best use of learning effort. I heard a discussion on the radio the other day talking about the investment value of tertiary study and that for some degrees the cost benefit analysis doesn't balance up. Certainly this thought adds to my frustration with the masters course. The post grad diploma I have just completed made absolutely no difference to my salary and it cost me several thousand dollars to complete. In spite of that I consider it money well spent because of my engagement with the learning. Likewise the masters will cost me many thousands and make no difference to my salary. I'm hoping this one paper is an unfortunate blip in an otherwise valuable learning experience. So far the jury is out.

Which brings me back to your post. I am finding that engaging online with other educators who are actively blogging their thinking is the greatest professional development I could have. And being a blogger myself makes me ponder and reflect on my own thinking before I post (most of the time :).

Good luck with the study.

Monica Haake said...

This post is a timely one for me too Zac. I read this as I sat procrastinating about jumping through the hoops of my own master's program. It's so frustrating! I have always said that I wish I could create my own master's program. . .learn what I want, when I want. I'm sure you will feel the pain of being under the control of someone else at least during part of your studies. I'm feeling it now! But, like you said, you are good at playing the game. At least you are not too far removed from the game! I feel like I've been sitting on the bench for awhile! :) I get a little comfort from the fact that my salary WILL increase after I finish. (sorry Paul!)

Scott said...

I'm glad you noticed Dean's use of the phrase "pushed me to think." It caught my attention, too. We seem to do an awful lot of pushing---with colleagues in professional development contexts, with students, etc. Your post nicely captures the whole push/pull dialectic. Thanks for such a thoughtful reflection.