TOP 10 – #9: Educational Shifts and The Importance of Trust in Learning Communities

TOP 10 COUNTDOWN – Summary of ECI831 Learnings

It is with this post, I continue my TOP 10 Countdown as a summary of learnings in our ECI831 class.  This Top 10 inspired the creation of my “Future of education?” video for our final reflection project.  And the countdown continues…

AT #9:  Educational Shifts & The Importance of Trust in Learning Communities

There is a shift taking place in terms of educational technology.  This shift involves moving away from standard drill-and-practice to more open and social connections.  Although objectivism still exists as does cognitivism and constructivism; there appears to be a movement towards connectivism in education.  (Flosse Posse, 2005)  

Just as there is a shift taking place in terms of educational technology, I am beginning to reflect on my own practices and am experiencing a shift in thinking.  In relation to technology, I believe there are many valuable tools which can enhance learning within the context of both constructivist and connectivist learning theories.  New technologies open up a world of possibilities to educators and students in adding depth to content. There is an opportunity to construct knowledge using the various technologies and to make learning authentic. For example, technologies such as Blogs, Wikis, Twitter, and other networking tools allow learners to reflect on learnings, share information, dialogue, and exchange information which can enable deep understanding. (Constructivist and also Connectivist).  That being said, I am still finding my ‘fit’ in all of this as an educator.  I am beginning to see myself as less of a traditional educator, and more of a coach, facilitator, or guide.  I no longer feel I have to be the ‘expert’ at everything.  However, what I do have to be is an individual who can help others develop essential questions and find ways to investigate their answers.     

In relation to virtual learning communities, I will leave this course richer for the experience but still finding ways to navigate my own learning communities and connect to my personal and professional practices.  Engaging in conversation this way stretched my comfort zone.  However, I was very encouraged after Rick Schwier’s presentation in which he talked about the importance of finding one’s comfort zone, level of participation, and importance of trust in online learning communities.  Rick stated, 

“…people need to feel comfortable to participate, and unless the invitation to participate is explicit, and the boundaries of acceptable behaviour are shared and understood, people will not be as likely to take risks in their communication with other members of the community…In any community, and noticeably in virtual learning communities, relatively few members conduct most communication.  Quite a number of people “lurk” on the fringes of conversations.”  (Schwier, R.A., 2009)  He goes on to say that, ““Trust appears to be the most significant single prerequisite factor in enabling vibrant communities to emerge.  At least, without trust there is very little likelihood that an authentic community will happen.  If participants share high levels of trust, they are more likely to engage deeply and take learning risks.”  (Schwier, R. A., 2009)

Much of what Rick presented in our evening session resonated with me.  Being that I am relatively new to virtual learning communities, I still have a tendancy to “lurk” as, even in face-to-face meetings, it takes me a while to figure everyone out and determine my ability to contribute.  The fact he made it clear that “lurking” is a normal process of becoming familiar with an online environment put me at ease.  By the end of our course, I found it easier to contribute via the backchannel chats, commenting on blogs, communicating with others via email, Twitter, etc. as I felt a sense of professionalism and trust and became more willing to take risks.  I did not always agree with the viewpoints of my classmates nor them with mine, however the sense of trust made it possible to share, dialogue, and grow.  I came across a ‘retweet’ on Twitter by Rick Schwier that sums of the value of differing opinions:  

RT @RickWarren: Reading only authors u agree with will weaken your mind, harden your biases, reinforce prejudices & limit your growth

There is much value in differing opinions as it forces us to reflect further on our own thoughts – sometimes requiring a shift in thinking, sometimes reinforcing our own beliefs.  Regardless, the challenge leads to deeper levels of thinking, learning, and professional growth.   

References:

Schwier, R.A. (2009).  Pursing the elusive metaphor of community in virtual learning environments.  Proceedings of EDMEDIA 2009, Association for the Advancement of Computers in Education, Honolulu, Hawaii

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~ by lewisv on November 29, 2010.

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