Teacherpreneurs Mentor Edupunks: Connectivism

Note: This post is the second in the nine-part series Teacherpreneurs Mentor Edupunks: Convergence Reshapes Teacher Preparation for Today and the Future and written in the vein of peering into Teaching 2030. Click here to read the previous post.

Connectivism: The Imperative of Personal/Professional Learning Networks + Personal Learning Environments

Online communities and learning networks are pivotal to a teacher candidate’s experience and learning. By creating and engaging in Personal or Professional Learning Networks (PLN), teacher candidates lay the foundation for understanding connectivism by undertaking it themselves, participating, by becoming a Networked Teacher. Teacher candidates must learn, as do their students, of how to connect, share, and collaborate with others worldwide to enlarge their canvass of learning. In The Networked Teacher, Dr. Kira J. Baker-Doyle, assistant professor of education at Penn State-Berks, outlines her research and theory on the importance of connectivism, networking by following “the stories of four first-year teachers, illustrating the significant impact that social support networks can have on teachers lives and challenging common misconceptions of professional support.”  Understanding the value of professional networking, the U. S. Department of Education has launched a new initiative naming August 2012 as the Connected Educator Month.

Today’s teacher candidates must learn how to locate relevant and quality resources as they grow their PLNs using various digital tools, such as Twitter and Diigo, and focus attention and time to those professional learning elements that will be useful to them. The Connected Educator, by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall, is must read in creating an effective PLN. Also, the Educator’s PLN community website supports educators in creating and expanding their PLNs by providing connections, resources, and discussions. And other communities abound: Teacher Leaders Network; Middleweb; The English Companion Ning; Classroom 2.0; and The Future of Education. As professional development becomes more job-embedded via PLNs, more focused on competency rather than “seat time,” learning badges, similar to a Scout earning a badge showing proficiency in a particular skill, will become a standard as “learning” has been redefined and new assessment frameworks acknowledge informal, passion-based learning.

Today’s teachers are leveraging connected learning through web curation by using web spaces as Learnist, Pinterest, and ScoopIt. Teacher candidates in 2030 will have already curated a sophisticated personal learning network through seamless connections in and out of cyberspace. Using PLNs, teacher candidates have designed their own Personal Learning Environments (PLE), a “personal collection of tools and resources a person assembles to support their own learning – both formal and informal..to support one’s ongoing social, professional, learning, and other activities…While the concept of PLEs is fairly fluid, it is clear that a PLE is not simply a technology but an approach or process that is individualized by design, and thus different from person to person,” according to the New Media Consortium Horizon Report 2012 K-12 Edition.

In 2030, it will be commonplace for teacher candidates to share with and learn from their PLE as they hack their education. If teacher preparation as we know it today still exists in institutions of higher education in 2030, its basic premise will be founded on connectivism via a PLE, where teacher candidates learn of the world’s best teachers, those who are teacherpreneurs, and beat a cyber path to their portals, putting the new virtual apprenticeship into action.

What are your thoughts on the importance of connectivism in teacher preparation?

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