Monday, December 15, 2014

Connectedness, Like Ice Cream, is Best Consumed in Moderation

Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere. - Chinese proverb


Like countless others, I have experienced a personal and professional rebirth as a result of connecting with other educators through a personal learning network (PLN). Connected educators frequently cite several key advantages of socially networked learning, including; personalization of learning, collaborative spirit, professional voice, global perspective, and most importantly, relationship building. 

However, like other activities that we find fulfilling and enjoyable, connecting with others digitally is best done in moderation. When I eat too much ice cream too fast, I get a vicious headache. Comparatively, there are times when unplugging from our social networks is not only appropriate, but essential to our face-to face relationships. Family dinners, walking our dogs with my wife, fishing, and exercising are examples of times when I go comfortably into “airplane mode”. 



Unplugging gives us the opportunity to connect with our loved ones, reflect on our experiences, appreciate our natural surroundings, and listen attentively to our inner voice. Striking a balance between connected and unconnected time is challenging, but the rewards can be substantial and everlasting. During this holiday season many of us who are heavily connected to social networks will be dedicating time to unplug and recommit to our face-to-face relationships.

How do you strike a balance between Facetime & face-to-face time?

Related Reading



Airplane Mode - George Couros


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Monday, December 1, 2014

Self-Directed vs. Self-Determined Learning; What's the Difference?

In this age of abundance of information, shifting classroom pedagogy isn't nearly enough to make learning in school more relevant and authentic for the learner. Self-directed learning (andragogy), and self-determined learning (heutagogy) are the ideals necessary in making students "future ready" to live and learn in a web connected world. While original research applied these concepts to mature learners, it has become apparent that even young children have an abundant capacity for recognizing and directing their own learning. Anyone who has observed toddlers learning how to walk and talk understand the motivation and skill development that quickly develops during these processes. Considered by some to be on a learning continuum, self-directed learning and self-determined learning have at least one distinct difference. What is this difference, and why should educators care?


"Self-determined learning, also called heutagogy, is an educational phenomenon that is sweeping the world. From Brazil to Germany, England to Australia, the US to the Czech Republic, traditional teaching-centered approaches are being replaced by an approach that focuses on learning: What do you want to learn? How will you learn it? Who are your learning guides? How will your learning success be measured?" - "Experiences in Self-Determined Learning"


Self-Directed Learning - is a process in which learners take responsibility, typically under the guidance of an instructor, for diagnosing learning needs, articulating learning goals, identifying materials and resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes. (Knowles, 1975)

Self-Determined Learning - is a process in which learners take initiative for identifying learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying learning resources, implementing problem solving strategies, and reflecting upon the learning processes in order to challenge existing assumptions and increase learning capabilities. (Blaschke, 2012)

Obvious similarities certainly, but the key difference between self-directed learning and self-determined learning is the "double-loop" capability. Beyond problem-solving, double-loop learning involves scrutinizing variables and questioning original concepts, and learning processes. Reflection is a key aspect to increasing learning capabilities promised through double-loop learning. (Argyris, 1974)




This distinction between self-directed learning and self-determined learning is important for educators wanting to impact organizational change, as well as, help students become "future ready". In this age of rapid change, organizations need leaders willing to question belief systems and thought processes. For example, the concept of "teacher cognition" suggests changes in education struggle to keep pace with economic, societal changes because of teachers' long-standing thoughts and beliefs about learning and school. These beliefs don't carry the same weight or relevance in our current information abundant, web connected world. 

Self-determined learning centers on "learning how to learn". Students who are able to reflect and make decisions about their learning will be empowered through motivation, flexibility, and self-awareness. Schools are attempting to prepare students for careers that by and large do not yet exist. The best way to help students become future ready is to guide them towards becoming self-determined in their learning. Upwards of ninety percent of our learning will occur outside formal educational settings. (Jennings, 2010) With this in mind, it's easy to understand the value of learning how to learn.

Proponents of "growth mindset", "lifelong learning", and "connected learning" will recognize the value of increasing learning capabilities through reflection and learning relationships. Teachers who adopt a learner-first mentality will understand the motivational power of autonomy, purpose, and mastery as these characteristics apply to learning and education. Self-determined learning is not a quick fix. Reflecting upon and challenging one's learning system takes time, practice, and understanding. When solutions aren't readily available, it's easier to find fault in the problem than to self-evaluate. However, real and lasting progress is made when short-comings are identified and new processes increase learning capabilities. These increases in learning capabilities make self-determined learning a relevant topic worthy of our attention and understanding.

What steps are you taking towards becoming a self-determined learner?


How does your learning impact the learning of your students?


For Greater Depth & Understanding


Digital Age Learning - Learning With E's, Steven Wheeler

Experiences in Self-Determined Learning - Blaschke, Kenyon, & Hase

Where is Reflection In The Learning Process - Dr. Jackie Gerstein

Education and the Pedagogy of Mobile Learning - Dr. Jackie Gerstein



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Sunday, November 23, 2014

On the Shoulders of Giants; 3 Ways Educators Can Increase Relevance

This post was inspired by two of my giants, Tom Whitby & Steven W. Anderson

"Relevancy includes not only skills educators need to use, but educators are also charged to teach these same skills to their students. Digital literacy is now an integral part of education for teaching and learning, going beyond the application in an education setting to that of the world of work. Strategies and methodologies used for collaborative learning in education are easily carried over to the world of work, enabling lifelong learning to become more than just words in a school's mission statement." - The Relevant Educator



What used to constitute relevancy in education was confined to the pages of a textbook, the walls of a classroom, and the words of a teacher. However, today relevancy in education is learning empowered through connectedness. Connectedness and digital literacies create limitless availability to information, diversity in perspective, and access to giants. Who are these giants? Giants are creative, collaborative, communicators of thinking, learning, school, and education. Where are these giants? They are everywhere, but they are most readily found on social media. There are several effective ways to connect and engage with giants. Here are three effective methods for educators to gain relevance by connecting and learning with giants;

Find Giants On Social Media - Many giants are active bloggers. Educators can gain relevance by searching for blog posts and curating them in social readers such as Flipboard or Zite. Educators can also increase their relevancy by sharing their learning transparently. A blog is an ideal tool for sharing reflective learning processes, as well as, sharing the digital products of their learning. Mentioned earlier, social readers intuitively locate posts that suit the learner's reading patterns and interests. As the name suggests, social readers allow educators to readily share interesting, and relevant, material through email or social media. Educators can increase efficiency by subscribing to blogs using an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) reader such as Feedly. New posts and updates are automatically catalogued for the reader, and that makes the reading and learning "on demand". Teach 100 is a good starting place when searching for bloggers with an education focus. With billions of posts to choose from, educators are sure to find something that supports their teaching and learning.

Invite Giants Into Your PLN - Who wouldn't want at least one giant on their team? A PLN, or personal learning network is a team of people that support and challenge an educator's thinking. Learning relationships are the strength of a PLN. These relationships are usually initiated and maintained through social media. Google+, Skype, and Linkedin are popular virtual meeting places for connected educators. Along with many other educators, Twitter is the foundation of my PLN. Educators can increase relevance with just several daily minutes of "following" and engaging with, their PLN giants. Twitter chats are popular, and engaging, activities for educators to increase relevance and personalize their learning. Dozens of educational Twitter chats occur daily. Educators can determine the depth and frequency of their participation. Whether it's lurking or leading, following giants and subscribing to their lists can certainly increase relevance and personal learning for educators.

Meet Giants At Conferences - Conferences and workshops take on a whole new life when learning relationships are established through social networks. With the philosophical groundwork covered, conference conversations can cut right to improving learning and education. For many educators, the informal PLN meeting spaces often provide a more enjoyable learning experience than the formal sessions, which primarily follow a "sit and get" learning model. Backchanneling is a process by which conference attendees share their learning using a hashtag (#). This sharing of key points and resources adds relevance to the presenter and the participant. Additionally, countless non-attendees can connect and share in the learning conversations about the conference sessions. Meeting your PLN giants in person is terrific, but attending virtually has value too! EdCamps and unconferences have gained tremendous popularity. With no cost, and no agenda, teachers build sessions and engage in conversations about educational practice. Relevance is achieved by attending and connecting at these exciting professional learning events.

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with change without the help of social networks. Crowdsourcing learning not only helps build relevance, but it also models learning processes that will help students become "future-ready". Establishing a PLN and fostering learning relationships are both a process and a mindset. Giants have blazed trails for others to follow. Their paths are strewn with established connections, resources, and ideas that allow educators to increase their relevance rather quickly and easily. The keys are adopting a learner's mindset, and committing to connectedness. 

  • Who are the giants helping educators achieve relevance?
  • How can giants support your teaching and learning?
  • What is the relevance of the embedded picture? Suggest a caption!

References & Related Resources





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