De-Schooling for Connection

At the end of an evening of tinkering — fiddling, exploring and stirring — tired and scattered, but invigorated by newly-made connections and the promise of more coherence tomorrow, I offer these modified nuggets-cum-stepping stones from the learning webs of Ivan Illich to those of the 21st-Century connected course.

1) From the introduction to De-Schooling Society (1971)

Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue’s responsibility until it engulfs his pupils’ lifetimes will deliver universal education. The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring.

2) Word cloud suggesting the power nodes of a learning web:

Illich's Opportunity Webs
Illich’s Opportunity Webs

 (From De-Schooling Society, Ch. 6 “Learning Webs“)

3) Connected Learning brings Illich into the 21st century by embracing interest-powered, peer-supported and academically oriented learning founded on an abiding commitment to equity, social connection and full participation in the educational experience. It does this by bringing communities of learners (teachers, peers) together for a shared purpose in an openly networked environment.

“Connected learning is a work in progress, building on existing models, ongoing experimentation, and dialog with diverse stakeholders. It draws from social, ubiquitous, blended and personalized learning, delivered by new media, to help us remodel our educational system in tune with today’s economic and political realities. Connected learning is not, however, distinguished by a particular technology or platform, but is inspired by an initial set of three educational values, three learning principles, and three design principles.”

–Principles of Connected Learning (2014).

4) Connected courses leverage the creative potential of learning resources, tools and materials that are freely accessible and available in a networked learning environment.  They empower students to take charge of their education, to create more than they consume, and to develop and pursue their talents and expertise in meaningful ways. Connected courses may begin in a classroom and/or on a course website, but the measure of their success will be their contribution to an ongoing (and Illich would say increasingly urgent) process of deschooling society.

5) Tools and strategies to grow by. (Illich would say “tinker with”)……I have ticked several things off this list of twenty-one things every 21st-Century Teacher should do this year.  Looking forward to my next connected course, I will take on more — although I’m counting on my students to parody the hit songs (and really looking forward to that!).

Infographic by Sean Junkin: https://twitter.com/sjunkins
Infographic by Sean Junkins: https://twitter.com/sjunkins

Artifacts and Learning

ModelCropFor some reason, this is the item that immediately came to mind when I read Kimberly, Alma and Joycelyn’s invitation last week.  For those of you unfamiliar with post-Soviet retro kitsch, this is a lovingly rendered model of an early space ship, procured at a flea market outside Moscow about fifty years after the vessels that inspired it were first launched.   Thinking about how this Sputnik  “represents my work” brings up obvious resonances with one of my favorite courses – Soviet history.  The space program and the Soviet Union’s commitment to using technology to master the heavens as well as the earth, and to remake “man” along the way, is one of the main themes of the course.  And the drama and global interest in the early chapters of the space race remain compelling for 21st-century learners.  Like the Russian Revolution and World War II, the space race is something most people think they “know” something about, but are often surprised when that “knowledge” evolves considerably with a bit of study, encouragement, and reflection.  So the model Sputnik represents my work because it is anchored to particular historical context, created in a different historical situation, and invites learners of all ages (in a third historical context) to engage with the intellectual, material, and cultural legacy of one of the great proxy struggles of the Cold War.

When I started reading Ivan Illich, I was pretty sure I would need to find a different artifact. (Once again our reading for this week completely captivated me!  Every week I think that this course has maxed out its potential to get my happy, creative, “I love my job” juices flowing…and every week, I’m wrong.  What a great feeling!)  I found much in “Deschooling Society” that made me question how accessible the artifacts of education are, and wonder how best to make “educational equipment” more accessible for self-directed learning 24/7.  And I could (should?) write a whole separate post about Illich’s perspectives on the student-teacher relationship – I’m still struggling with what often seems to be a reductive understanding of learning as “skills.” ModelDogsCropShortBut in the end, I’m sticking with my little wooden sputnik.  For as any learning web would quickly discover, the model is both more and less than what it appears to be.  Using a combination of careful inspection (Why are there little wooden dogs inside the model? Why does the model look a lot like an egg?)unpaintedWoodenEgg and skilled consultation with peers and other educators (Which space ship is this supposed to be? Why is that important?), we realize that although the model falls way short of historical accuracy and museum-quality craftsmanship, it represents a grand vision, and a salient moment when the learning webs of a forward-thinking cohort of scientists forever altered the way humanity sees life on Earth.

back-up-of-first-russian-sputniksputnik2b