Connecting the Dots visual note by Nicki Hambleton using Adobe Ideas on iPad

Connecting the Dots visual note by Nicki Hambleton using Adobe Ideas on iPad

As a young child I loved Dot to Dots, joining the seemingly random patterns to reveal a recognisable image. I loved to try to work out what the dots were going to magically transform into by connecting them via advancing numbers. If you have never heard of or done a Dot to Dot before there is one below. Can you tell what this one is going to be?

Photo Credit: whitney waller via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: whitney waller via Compfight cc

The idea of seeing the whole picture is something that has continued with me; from developing meaningful lessons to my “Big Idea” visual notes and it was whilst planning this current post that led me to recall a quote from Steve Jobs:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

Despite the uniqueness of this quote, most people talk about looking to the future than the past, it rings true for so much that we do. In order to move forwards we must look to the past: to learn from it, to move on from it or to take ourselves somewhere new. There is no point thinking we can develop anything without building on the past, it is the way we have always been. Even Picasso said that all art comes from what precedes it and Kirby Ferguson talked about the remix culture in his TedTalk Embrace the Remix in 2012.

Do we look back to the past or into the future? What is the future of Education?

What Learning Matters?

Thinking about the future of education and how it might look, takes me back to the Learning 2 Talk “What Learning Matters” by Charlotte Diller of The Chinese International School , Hong Kong. She begs us to think about what what really matters:

“with so much that is now googleable, what learning is it that is going to position our students in a world that is rapidly changing and for a future that is unknown?”

Learning Online

Photo Credit: giulia.forsythe via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: giulia.forsythe via Compfight cc

Way back in 1969, the Open University launched and opened its doors to students in 1971. With more than 250,000 students enrolled and more than 1.5 million students having taken courses since it began, it qualifies as one of the largest institutions in the world. Many students prefer distance learning, due to age or health reasons or for convenience of studying at home and this concept of “learn when you want” is common practice these days. We learn in so many ways, from watching a video on YouTube to signing up for an online course through Alison, Coursera or iTunes U. Some time ago I set out to improve my digital skills in Art through online courses in Photoshop and a multitude of alternatives presented themselves to me. Alison has 600 free courses available from Accounting to Yoga with over 4 million learners online. My New Years resolution is to learn more about After Effects and thank goodness Alison has a free course! Coursera takes it one notch further, connecting learners with universities and organisations to provide high quality courses again for free. Back in 2007, iTunes U was launched providing downloadable material for learning and encouraging individuals to set up their own online courses. Wouldn’t it be great if teachers backed up their lessons online through iTunes U extending the class material and pushing students further in their understanding? Two years ago an article on Edudemic encouraged teachers using iPads in the classroom to start using iTunes U as a resource as there were so many lessons already available for them to use. More recently, this summer Techcrunch reported an update that allows teachers more flexibility with creating and managing course content on iTunes U through iPad.

Perhaps I should develop a Visual Note taking course online – would anyone be interested?

We can literally learn anything we want, whenever we choose. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) emerged in 2012 as a way of bringing together unlimited numbers of participants to resources and videos through forums and discussions to build community around content. EdX differs from Coursera and Udacity as a MOOC and online learning platform being non-profit, analysing the data of its users and currently has over 3 million users in over 300 courses online.

It seems as technology advances so too does the amount of choice we have in taking learning into our own hands. But returning to Charlotte’s talk, the combination of emotion and cognition is what is important in the future. The skills of perseverance, creativity and thinking are what will be needed in the future.

So how might this look?

Connectivism: it takes a village to raise a child

Like most people, my best learning and thinking occurs around, from and with others. So the visual note above shows that connecting with people and places is the most effective way to learn, and it is this model that is at the heart of the success of COETAIL. At the beginning of Course 1 I looked at connecting and reaching out to begin to build a network of support as well as encouragement and a point of contact to learn and bounce ideas from. I am eternally grateful to those early supporters, like Matt, Ann and Joe who found the time to connect with me and comment on my posts. And they are still with me, despite our difference in backgrounds and distances in locations. Jim Laney at Learning 2, Africa states, “there is no other continent that values personal connection and social responsibility more than Africa”. (The Right Time. The Right Place). Jim quotes that “it takes a village to raise a child” and to me COETAIL is like a village, consisting of the Elders, the wise ones, always there to guide and push us; the coaches, like the graduates in a family understanding our worries and directing us forward through their own experience; and us, the teenagers, ready to embark on our journey ahead. And as valued members of this COETAIL family, we are there for the new members, those staring out, ready to help them to connect and learn too. It is this “engaged learning” that Jim talks about that is the centre of the philosophies of COETAIL. I remember how difficult connecting was when I lived and worked in Ghana from 2008-10, and the isolation and technology difficulties meant we had to find alternative ways to learn together and move forward our thinking. Challenges force us to think differently, to find solutions and change can be rapid.

Photo Credit: Dietmar Temps via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Dietmar Temps via Compfight cc

Building a Tribe

There are so many incredible and inspirational educators out there, and through COETAIL and Learning 2 I have been privileged to learn and work alongside them. As I think back to where this all started and map my journey above, I realise that connections and emotion are inextricably linked. Without the will to meet and learn we would not connect. Without the drive and desire to change and develop we would not grow. My tribe started small and close to home, with the enviable names of educators I followed on Twitter starting that journey. As an early Twitterer, Jabiz encouraged me to expand my PLN so I duly followed many educators he followed. I learnt so much in the early days from Kim Cofino’s blog Always Learning, introduced to me by the Elementary librarian Tanja Galetti at LCS in Ghana. I am lucky now to work at UWCSEA with Keri-lee Beasley, Dave Caleb, Jeff Plaman and Paula Guinto, all who have helped me in this journey of development but it was Andrew McCarthy who first tapped into my talent as a mere Art teacher dabbling with technology in the classroom and helped me to where I am now. It took a while to believe I had something worth sharing.

Having a tribe of honest, helpful and caring people is crucial in developing trust and belief and it is with this in mind that I wonder how our youngsters can build their own tribes to support and guide them in their learning. How can we foster this in Middle School when they cannot join many social media sites until they are 13?

The Future is Now

Back in January 2012, Sir Ken Robinson talked about Leading a Learning Revolution. He said that:

“every education system is being reformed yet it is not enough. Reform is no use as it is simply improving a broken model. What we need is not an evolution but a revolution in education. This has to be transformed into something else.”

He also stated that people are reluctant to reform or transform as “it has always been done that way”. As I think about this further, I remember Jeff Utecht’s talk “The Future is Here” at Learning 2 Singapore last year:

Jeff told us that we are “in a world where Science fiction meets reality yet Education isn’t changing”. But is it? Are we teaching as we always did? We are bombarded with new ideas and initiatives often when there is barely enough time to teach the curriculum so how can we change for the better, for our students? Maybe we need to change our thinking and ask, as Charlotte did, “What Learning matters, now and in the future?” What walls are you faced with to get around? What is that wall and what is stopping you breaking through it?

Jeff Utecht "What's your Moonshot?" Learning 2 talk 2013 Singapore by Nicki Hambleton

Jeff Utecht “What’s your Moonshot?” Learning 2 talk 2013 Singapore by Nicki Hambleton

From thinking about this course, I ask myself, What am I going to do differently on Monday? The whole experience of COETAIL has led to thinking differently and changing what I do on Mondays, yet I want more and I want it for more students than just the ones I teach. I, like Jeff, am bothered that things aren’t changing and if they are, are they changing for the better, for our students in this unknown future?

Photo Credit: andrew and hobbes via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: andrew and hobbes via Compfight cc

For one, I would like to help my students to grow their PLNs whatever that looks like, to find their go-to people, their supporters, encouragers and guides. Working with online services like blogging and image sharing, I hope to assist them in giving and receiving valuable feedback that will take them forward and transform their learning both in and out of the classroom. But, as always this change in culture will take time, but I hope that, like me, they will see the benefit and beauty in connecting and supporting one another in order to grow and develop.

It is incredible how much changes in a short time. What changes will we see in education, what has changed in the time I have been teaching, or even just in the last 5 years? Sir Ken Robinson finishes his 2012 Learning without Frontiers talk by saying that we should be “customising and personalising education to our students” and in the context we are teaching. It is not about finding a new solution but in developing our own solutions.

What is the Future of Learning? Well, whatever it is, it is in our hands…

 

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Comments
  1. Matt McGrady says:

    I have 15 7th graders who are jumping into visual note taking and would love to take an online course run by you. Especially as they are getting bored of my ‘dad’ jokes.

    • Nicki Hambleton says:

      OK you’re on, just give me time to develop it – advice anyone?!
      Keep it simple, build up gradually?
      iTunes U or ?

  2. Joe Teft says:

    Nicki,

    The pencil is still on me, wow, pressure, I’d better create something soon.

    Firstly, I love the what learning matters part. I wonder about this all the time, and have had some good conversations with Charlotte too. Hmm, and I wonder how we can do this as a school, I mean we create a vision about what learning matters, but how does a whole school (not just admin and teachers) buy into the vision. Can we recreate a vision every year with students, or is that too ambitious? (it very likely is, those meetings would take forever hahaha).

    I also think we are connected on the it takes a village thing. Emotional connections are my focus right now, and I love how you have your tribe documented. How many of those people started off as digital and went to physical, and what’s the ratio to starting off as physical to digital? When we want students to grow their PLN, and I know more than just the two of us do, how do we authentically teach that and when? I’m hoping it’s grade 3 for my project this January.

    I think some people are changing how education is, but we face barriers (real or perceived) and doubt ourselves (which might go back tot he whole recreating vision statements regularly). When everything is constantly changing why not our vision statements and mission statements?

    Hmm.

    Anyway, miss you heaps and hope you’re feeling okay, big hugs, until we see each other again.

    Joe

  3. Clint Hamada says:

    Now that more and more teachers are becoming comfortable with creating, cultivating and leveraging their own PLNs, the next logical step is to find ways to teach students about them and help them grow their own network. Back in Course 1 or 2 (or was it 3, I can’t remember!) you talked about creating a place for students to share and critique art that they had created. This would be an amazing way to help students further their understanding of the power of connections!

  4. Nicki,

    I am still working on our sketchnoting revolution at AAS and I would definitely love my sixth graders to take your visual notetaking course. The idea is awesome! Absolutely love it! Our third graders have started sketchnoting and I know that many of my colleagues are intrigued, so I can envision educators as well joining in on the learning. Very cool!

    As always, you are an inspiration, Nicki!

    Happy holidays to you and all your loved ones!

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