Week 8: Seismic Shift?

When reading the article by Dede, I felt that this idea of a fluid epistemology isn’t necessarily new, but rather how it is done and the scale to which it is done with Web 2.0 tools is.  Perhaps I feel this way due to the excellent education I received as an undergraduate and graduate student at Penn State in the 1990s.  Students in the sciences were trained to collaborate with each other, with faculty across the university, and with faculty elsewhere.  We were also taught to question, experiment, and repeat.  My M.S. thesis (and part of my undergraduate thesis) was based on a question regarding the experimental design of other work done at another university and involved collaboration amongst many faculty, some who were not at Penn State.  We did have email and the internet at this time, and some chat abilities.  I can imagine that knowledge building in a collaborative way as it was done then would be much easier with the tools we currently have.

Even when thinking about this epistemological shift in a historical perspective, if you check the Wikipedia article on Citizen Science (networked science), there have been projects since the early 1900s that utilized many amateur scientists to contribute data to projects like changes in the brightness of stars over time.  Science is not an individual process.  It involves consulting others to design experiments, reading what others have done, and sharing the results of what your group has learned.  Technology has only allowed this to be done faster.  The process of publishing in a referred journal allows others to critique your work before it is shared with the public.  This allows for peer review to be sure that the work hasn’t already been done or that there was not a flaw in the way the work was done.  The results of many experiments allow for changes in what we understand, so that what we teach is always changing as well.  I welcome students to question what we are learning based on other research they have read.  This is a wonderful characteristic of science in that we can’t ever really say that we completely understand something, we need to be open for new research that changes that understanding.

In reviewing the characteristics of connectivism in the George Siemens piece, I again found many of the important points to have been a part of the education I received at Penn State.  I also found many of the characteristics to be important to how I try to teach.  Since the principles of connectivism include learning and knowledge resting in a diversity of opinions and connecting with up-to-date information sources, the epistemological shift described by Dede can be seen to be rooted in this new learning theory of connectivism.

In the Networked Student video, I found the description of a student using these tools as an ideal.  I would love to have students who took the initiative to do as much as the student in the video did!  I loved the part about the tools themselves not being as important as the connections that can be made through the tools.  And I saw an ideal of what a teacher in this new environment can be as a learning architect, organizer, modeler, and encourager for the student and their goals.  I hope to use this model as I continually improve my teaching.

4 thoughts on “Week 8: Seismic Shift?

  1. Hannah Inzko

    I really like your points on how web 2.0 technology is making collaboration more accessible and effective. I think a perfect way to teach students how to put technology to work for them is to invite them to question what they are learning. So, kudos to you on that, because we all know instructors that might not have the courage to be questioned that way.

  2. Shelby Nelson


    I appreciate your comments about the Networked Student video. I found myself finding lots of good information from the video and had to rewatch parts of it because it gave us a lot of great points very fast. I thought the quote you found: “the tools themselves not being as important as the connections that can be made through the tools” to be valuable. I find this to be true. I do not believe that the connections that are being made in some cases would be possible without the tools that are being used; however, it is about HOW students are using these tools that is the valuable part to consider. These tools are being used in amazing ways.

  3. Justin Montgomery

    I’m with you. Penn State offers an incredible education, often on the cutting edge and almost always instilling the best practices in its students. I, too, hope to use the teaching model that you describe as I perpetually improve my practice. One of my first professional goals was to digitally create all my lesson materials, answer keys, and assessments. Now that I have the foundation laid, I endeavor to incorporate Web 2.0 tools into the core of the curriculum. As you echoed in your post from the Networked Student video, I will keep these resources as a means to an end and not as an end in themselves.

  4. mlc400

    I really like how you started your post saying that this is not something that is really new but it reflects a change in how it is done. It is interesting to hear you say that you were already encouraged as a learner to become collaborative when working through your school work. I can not say the same for my schooling however in terms of my career in education, there has been a big push recently for collaboration of ideas and teaching practices via Google Docs and other such tools that promote networking. I feel that the push is for educators today to be able to teach our students how to appropriately learn by using these tools freely instead of in a lecture setting. Allowing students to become their own investigators of learning while we coach them is essential. I like how you stated this point towards the end of your post as you stated, “an idea of what a teacher in this new environment can be as a learning architect, organizer, modeler, and encourager for the student and their goals.” This was a neat way of defining the “new teacher” role in the digital age.

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