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 A connected learning environment is a community of active learners who share, curate and produce resources and co-create knowledge on a topic of common interest (Lupton 2018).

2 years ago…

Introduction:

I have been concerned for many years about the level of engagement from senior students when learning about space science.  Students seem to be polar opposites when it comes to this topic: they either absolutely Love it or they are completely underwhelmed and disengaged.  I wanted to make the unit more accessible for those students who didn’t care about Hubble, red shift and worm holes so I started analysing their learning styles and their preferred method of presentation.  I consulted Blooms Revised Taxonomy (see Fig 1 below:)  and talked to the students, and spent many hours researching.

Fig 1.  Blooms Revised Taxonomy

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Source: the virtual library

 

I formulated a plan, however, it was top secret! As my AP doesn’t really like my ideas. I Looking at the Victorian curriculum, the category ‘ Creative and Critical thinking’ and the subsection called Meta Cognition confirmed my that my idea was indeed feasible.  The indicator suggested to: “Consider a range of strategies to represent ideas and explain and justify thinking processes to others(VCCCTM040) ”  I was ecstatic when it clicked (in my Brian) that higher order thinking also creating.  About this time, I was following astronaut Scott Kelly who was posting on Istagram from the International Space Station (ISS).  His images were mind blowing, beautiful and I wanted to recreate them.

So, I needed to skill up…

1 year ago…

I looked at Scott Kelly’s posts on Instagram and I shared them with the class, I even requested special permission to get Instagram unblocked.  I encouraged the students to look at the images, to see and be amazed.  We would have awesome conversations and discussions and deep and meaningful research occurred.

Still, I hadn’t reached a girl called Lily, she was a doodler, drawer and artist.  I knew what I needed to do but I didn’t have the skills, by this time I had worked out that Nasa had created a unit of work called Art and the cosmic connection.  The specialists had created stunning sculptures and mixed media pieces that were complex and required a lot of time and money- so not for me.   I created and documented a one week unit that used pastels, oils and water colour paint- I called it ‘Art in the Cosmos’.   The students loved it, and the products were great- it was good, but not good enough!

One day on Facebook I saw a friends comment she had made on a artist’s page, it was an alcohol ink media and it looked like the universe- you can imagine my excitement.  I followed the artist and googled Universe art and persisted, and then I found resin!

My learning journey:

I spent all my spare time learning. I used Google search, built connections and joined global groups on digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest and I followed blogs. It certainly rings true that: “As the boundaries between technology and social media have decreased, the potential for creative production or participatory practices have increased” (Brown et al 2016 p140).  Whenever I saw an inspirational image I added to my Pinterest account, and researched how to recreate it.  I followed others, I joined Etsy and I followed sellers Instagram feeds,  I read, researched and finally I bought some equipment to dabble with (If my husband asks- its all tax deductible 😬). For this assignment I will discuss my favourite group Resin Art Worldwide, as they are global and very supportive and interactive.

My chosen community has significant links to the ideas and concepts such as connected leaning principles, core properties and design principles which are described further in this document by Ito et al (2013),  the majority of critical commentary about the Connected Learning environment (CLE) occurs in Part B, post the development of my ideas and concept maps.

PART A:

The following mind maps were created to map a Connected Learning environment, the focus of which is Resin Art Worldwide.  Fig 2. below shows the initial brainstorm and links between CLE and Resin Art, as illustrated by the author.

Fig 2.  Initial Brainstorm

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Author Created

As my knowledge developed I remapped the CLE to show links and connections, this can be seen in Fig 3. below.  Connections between ideas are shown in orange, I chose this colour as it is associated with learning.

Fig 3. Developed to show links.

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Author Created

This visual representation of this Connect Learning environment fails to fully describe all connections and links.  In order to fully develop the map, annotations and notes were added, thus creating v3 which can be found in Fig 4.

Fig 4.  Annotated Mind Map

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Author created

Please click here if you would like to download the interactive file.  (There hyperlinks embedded, utilise fully please download a free app called SimpleMind.)

As previously indicated analysis of Fig 4, will be based on Ito et al CL Framework 2013, For example Peer- supported, Interest Powered and Academically orientated are identified as the “three crucial contexts for learning”.

Part B:

A critical commentary about my Connected Learning Environment.  I need to confess here and now, that I’ve never really been into constructivism.   Social constructivism- well if I have to, as my lecturers throughout uni were believers, but “Connectivism” proposed by George Siemens makes perfect sense it is a “yip, yes and definitely”.  To me this digital learning theory amalgamates into to my world, and when I teach it fits with my educational ethos as I believe that;

“Traditional theories of learning and construction of knowledge have not taken into account the revolution that has occurred in recent decades due to the emergence of ICT. Connectivism refers to the knowledge in the network that arises from the interaction within a group of knowledge construction” (Martínez and Hernández de Frutos p21 2018).

Further; “learning as the processes of making connections and making use of those connections” (p137 Smith et al 2017).  This is a significant change in the educational physiology of teachers educated before 2004…

(I understand if you need to close the tab)

Hence when I started to study this unit with Many Lupton, I was so excited, another chance to learn more about CLE and more knowledge to help my students, to gain knowledge with academic research to support my cause.  According to Ito et al “connected learning knits together three crucial contexts for learning” (2013, p12).  This statement is broken down further into 3 categories: Peer-supported,  Interest-powered and finally Academically oriented.  I will discuss these in order, in relation to my mind map and resin art worldwide. Starting with peer supported:

Peer Supported- Peers make the community, without others there would be no community. Prior to starting this journey, I had zero knowledge, I’m a science teacher by trade not an artist.  But my peers, who range in age from grandkids to grand dads, all help me acquire knowledge.  They post information, the make suggestions and they support everyone, I took a screen shot of a comment made by a new member:

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Of course there are the ‘haters’ but they are lovingly escorted from the community.   I feel that I am self directed and open minded and self reflective (Nassbaum-Beach and Hall p19 2012).  However, we all have the same aim, to make art.

Interest powered- is this the key to education?  It certainly was the emphasis for me. I believe that this concept is multifaceted, in that initially I was desperate for students to show more interest in their learning, I wanted to see their passion and share their wonder about the universe, however, I knew that I needed to reach them via another pathway.  As a consequence my interest and passion grew as I found out more information.  As a result I owe a dept of gratitude to ‘Lily’ as she provided the kick start I needed to travel down my learning pathway to join my CLE and to increase my knowledge.

Academically oriented or Learning orientated.  Why would you join a Connected Learning Environment if you didn’t search for something? This was my need, and most of the others post to learn, share technique, get advice or to give feedback on products.  Indeed, we all learn every time we log on, whether we like it or not we gain knowledge.  This was why I joined initially as I needed to be able to recreate universe images, I needed to be able to share this knowledge with my students in my class.  And I have the knowledge now, its been hard, as you can see from the mind map, there is specific technique, vocabulary, product info, mixed media, I have been learning for over 1 year- but I’m getting better.  This year will be my first trial with students.  My aim: to create a full ceiling of the universe for my year 8 area.  Achievable? who knows.  My peers think so.

Interestingly Maul et al have developed a survey and then surveyed adolescents to see whether the They gathered data on: “the connections between youths’ interest-related pursuits and academic goals, the involvement of adults as co-participants in pursuits, and youths’ access to technology tools they deem necessary for their pursuits” (Maul et al p1 2017) interestingly this article provided a direct correlation to my involvement in the connect learning environment, and my daughter who decided to use YouTube to learn how to do the splits.

According to Ito et al Core properties of connected learning experiences include; Production-centered, Shared purpose and Openly networked.

In this case a product is a piece of art, something that you look at and say wow, sometimes you can’t stop looking at it, other times you just smile. Making resin art means that the maker obtains an actual product, something that you can physically hold in your hands.  The production of the product is lined with potential pot holes, literally!  Areas of art where resin doesn’t stick, places where paint peels and things fall off.  When an issue arrises artists are online asking for help, solutions and indeed reasons why this happens.  The experience of producing a piece which includes ‘failures’ is part of the process and we learn to improve.  Some people sell their art, others gift to friends and family and Ive seen posts that art has been donated to hospitals to brighten up the walls.

The resin art worldwide group shares a purpose and is openly networked, positivism is encouraged.  As you can see from my mind map, connected learning experiences are community based, and are openly networked via many mainly digital sources, these include YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Etsy sites, and blogs.  I have read posts from children, from cancer patients who are in hospital and love looking at the images and from grandparents.  As the group is global, people post from India, Canada, UK and of course Australia.  There are posts from ‘new mums’ who are creating art at 2am when the family are finally asleep, and from people who are alone and connect to chat and have an online family.   All of the classes, generations and peers have a ‘common goal and interest’ the range of digital tools and networking is endless and open to anyone who needs or wants to connect.

New media amplifes opportunities for connected learning by Fostering engagement and self-expression, Increasing accessibility to knowledge and learning experiences, Expanding social supports for interests and Expanding diversity and building capacity.  I concur, my journey so far explains and illustrates that a none artist can learn and build experiences, ask people in the USA about ideas and eventually produce a piece they are proud of.  I admit that my current resin art is basic, no where near the art I look at from others, but it’s my art, my representation of the universe and a nebula or similar.  And, I hope that the more I continue to pursue the art and the creation of my pieces I will get better, I will be able to manipulate my resins, my pigments and my heat gun in order to produce better representations.  I take the advice offered by my networked peers, and I think and ponder- then try and experiment with their ideas and advice.
Keys to connected Learning; what Ive learned.  Make frequent contributions to twitter, Instagram and YouTube (Morrison 2016).  Whether this be via comment or post.  Being active in the online network attracts attention and promotes popularity and maintains a social presence which is important (Kear 2010).  Retweet, comment and share intelligent ideas- and, credit authors when possible.
All in all its a pretty cool universe out there.

 

Bibliography
  • Barnett, J. b., McPherson, V., & Sandieson, R. M. (2013). Connected teaching and learning: The uses and implications of connectivism in an online class. Australasian Journal Of Educational Technology, 29(5), 685-698.
  • Brown, C., Czerniewicz, L., and Noakes, T., (2016) Online content creation: looking at students’ social media practices through a Connected Learning lens, Learning, Media and Technology, 41:1, 140-159, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2015.1107097
  • Díaz Martínez,J.A., Teodoro Hernández de Frutos, T., (2018) .1, 21-37 Connectivism in the Network Society. The Coming of Social Capital Knowledge. Departamento de Sociología III. UNED
  • Ito, Mizuko, Kris Gutiérrez, Sonia Livingstone, Bill Penuel, Jean Rhodes, Katie Salen, Juliet Schor, Julian Sefton-Green, S. Craig Watkins. 2013. Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.
  • Kear, K. (2010). Online and social networking communities : a best practice guide for educators. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com
  • Maul, A., Penuel, W.R., Dadey, N. et al. Education Tech Research Dev (2017) 65: 1. https://doi-org.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/10.1007/s11423-016-9453-6
  • Morison, D. (2016) retrieved from: https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/3-takeaways-from-what-connected-educators-do-differently/
  • Nussbaum-Beach,S., Hall, R.L., (2012) The connected educator: Learning and leading in a digital agePublisher: Solution Tree Press Pub place: Bloomington, INISBN-139781935543176, 9781935543183.  p9-22.
  • Peppler, K. A. (Ed.). (2017). The sage encyclopedia of out-of-school learning. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com
  • Siemens, G. (2005).  Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from http://er.dut.ac.za/bitstream/handle/123456789/69/Siemens_2005_Connectivism_A_learning_theory_for_the_digital_age.pdf
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