Connections: Movement for a New Learning Ecology

The global education system can change. Indeed it must if we are to collectively imagine (or image) and act in defense of our interdependent and declining systems: social, environmental and economic (see Boulding, E. 1988; Catton, W. R. ,1980; McKibben, B. 2010). How we choose to connect in this imaging of new spaces has, for so long, been a daunting task. Public intellectuals, activists, and conscious citizens have made amazing strides in some locals and against great odds. This has happened in my own small coastal community (Richard, Hebb, Conboy; et al., 2007) and around the world (Akbar, Abbott, Bakan, 2003 18/23) centered around issues of local sustainability, human rights, and systems thinking. Yet people young and old (whom I have taught and learned with) are conflicted and confused about the issues of today. A few students act for instance, but more remain inactive with the role of learning seen as a part time and adult driven activity. A connectedness of the 19th century is pervasive while the possibilities of new connections today are relegated to technological leveraging for “reconnecting” to old friends, purchase streamlining, gaming, sports, and as Raskin (1986) put it, “television morality plays”. I will not spend much more time on what George Siemens (2010) has called “the softballs of education” for we know the issues with education well. We have an educational system that works well enough and a raft of international issues that unite, and at the same time disenfranchise our participation through the immense gravity inherent in the issues and our learned non-participation praxis. Parker (2003) puts it this way:

Democratic living is not given in nature, like gold or water. It is a social construct, like a skyscraper, school playground, or new idea. Accordingly, there can be no democracy without its builders, caretakers, and change agents….citizens.

As I write today, our world has an amazing array of individuals on the verge of connection; in a world where so many similar issues effect them. We need to design and nurture a learning community that connects social imagination around the world.

The following two videos relay this sentiment well.

One is a warning from Anthropologist Wade Davis on the centrality of understanding our collective Ethnosphere in a rapidly changing world:

The other is an eloquent plea from Howard Rheingold for “….reshaping the “story” of how things get done….a narrative of cooperation, collective action and “complex interdependencies”

A Way:Design, Connection and Curriculum

Connectivism offers an oracle where the nexus of learning theory and praxis (from curricular design to implementation and redesign) might achieve a flow necessary to understand our “complex interdependencies”. Greg Whitby (2008) implored, “we need to develop a narrative that sustains 21st century learning”. Whitby’s voice is clear here and he is joined by a movement of individuals who are dedicated to this aim in the many connected spaces of the internet and field of learning. Whether accessing the internet for connection via mobile device in Africa or on a 24 inch desktop screen in a US university lab extraordinary connections can and in some instances are being made. The questions surrounding these connections and their implication on the spaces of learning and curriculum are of central interest to me.

When considering these topics how are we and trying to make sense of learning today and who is starting to develop the narrative that sustains 21st century learning? What am I contributing to this process and who am I inspired by, working and connecting with? Over the next three months I will attempt to clarify this for myself and those who in my CCK11 and EDC533 communities and beyond. In the process, I hope to learn with many individuals and continue my work with old and new colleagues as we connect and act for learning in the 21st century. In some future posts I plan to reflect on my version of “connecton” as a way to meet my learning goals, grow through new connections, and ultimately design and contribute to new learning ecologies.