Sunday, 12 October 2008

Here Comes Learning - A Keynote from Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and Will Richardson Pt1.

I'm going to explore this keynote in three parts as I got a lot from it and have a lot to share and consider. I figured that by breaking it up it will make for easier reading for those of you that are interested.

Whilst at ULearn08 I was fortunate enough to be able to listen to a keynote presented by Sheryl Nussbaum - Beach and Will Richardson, two US educators who I very much admire. They presented using a sort of tag team approach with each of them taking it in turn to share their message/thoughts with the audience. The title of the keynote was;
"Here Comes Learning". I found their presentation to be both inspiring and reaffirming, I could see that I am on the right path in my journey as an educator and learner as we move forwards in a new direction with education.

Will shared the story of 11 year old Laura Stockman and her blog 25 Days to Make a Difference. Laura started this blog after her much loved grandfather died in honour of his memory. She was determined to make a difference in the world by doing one good deed a day for 25 days. Her blog was the portal through which she shared her journey with the world. Now, around 10 months later, Laura is still blogging and still making a difference, her original plan has has just ballooned! Check out her blogto see just how much. Laura's blog is read all over the world, she's one awesome kid.

Sheryl then talked about her work with novice teachers involved in a networked project with threaded discussions. She discussed how this kind of network allowed for the sharing of several different perspectives about he topics discussed. I think one of the things that really struck me personally was her story of a young teacher who was questioning his decision to become a teacher. He was finding everything so overwhelming and, as many of us have done, he was starting to feel that he just didn't measure up, that this wasn't for him. He wrote about it in the forum and what he wrote came from the heart - he really was at the end of his rope. What he got back was an out pouring of support and encouragement from the others in the forum. Realising he was not alone he made the decision to stay in education, his post to the forum when he made this decision gave me goose bumps. This was an example of what a powerful medium a community of practise can be. I know from my own point of view that my PLN is like my life line, it's what keeps me going and helps me to feel that I am simply not just a voice in the wilderness.

Will talked about the need for "every child in every school to grow their own network in safe and effective ways". This really resonated with me and, as a mother as well as an educator, I can see the sense in this as these transformative technologies shape a very different tomorrow for our young people. I find this really exciting, if a little scary at times, but also realise that this concept is potentially very daunting and frightening for some. The other worrying thing is that I think perhaps many people out there just aren't aware of what's here already and what's coming up close behind. I first read Tad Williams "The Otherland" series back in 1999 and thought "yea right!" but, having reread it recently, I can see that much that was written about as science fiction has in fact now become science fact and I can see that many of the other concepts explored in that series may in fact become a reality in the not too distant future.

Sheryl then went on to talk about the need to place teachers in these situated learning communities of practise in order for us to support and enable the children in growing their own networks. She talked about how she felt that New Zealand has a good understanding of the power and value of these types of communities and cited our ICT Cluster system as an example. Sheryl used the following definition from Wikipedia to describe community:

"The process of social learning that occurs when people who have a common interest in some subject or problem collaborate over an extended period to share ideas, find solutions, and build innovations."

She went on to relate this to virtual learning communities. Sheryl talked about communities of practise being situated learning communities e.g. in my PLN we're all educators and are interested in improving over time. Sheryl talked about how situated learning communities are all about improvement. A situated learning community, according to Sheryl, differs from a network because it evolves. She explained that in a situated learning community you would want co-created content and co-created community, which should result in co-ownership. She talked about how members of the community start to evolve and develop shared norms.

Sheryl mentioned seeing the learner in these environments as an innovator, a co-communicator. She then went on to outline Clay Shirky's steps in a continuum in the process of forming communities whereby it moves from Sharing to Cooperation to Collaboration to Collective Action. (Clay Shirky is the author of "Here Comes Everybody").

(To be continued in Here Comes Learning - A Keynote from Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and Will Richardson Pt2).

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