Connected Pro-D

How can we avoid being seen as “useless” – get connected!

Posted in ECI 831 by tchcruiser on October 5, 2009

“The work of democracy involves espousing those values that in a less democratic society would get one sent to prison. To maintain its “sustainable edge,” a democracy requires its citizens to actually risk something, to test the limits of the acceptable; the “trajectory of capability-building” they must devote themselves to, above all others, is the one that advances the capability for making trouble. If the value you’re espousing is one that could never get anyone, anywhere, sent to prison, then strictly democratically speaking you’re useless.”


I am thinking about this quote in relation to my previous response to Alec in regards to who, what and how should and can informal, non-formal learning communities and recognized and officially sanctioned PD opportunities such as PLC’s, conferences, conventions and for that matter master’s degrees from a university co-exist…. after responding in my comment, I went back and read this article that was recommended in the backchannel during George Sieman’s presentation last week for our class… and I think the quote and my thinking connect and bump into each other. This quote, in George’s words, “resonated” with me because I think that it says something about the implications of what  connectivism means for educators, students and citizens today.

What it means is that in order to create change – in how we shape, define and conduct or own professional development, how we relate and communicate and carry out our work with students and parents, and how we participate as citizens in our world requires risk and courage – without it, and without the freedom to do so, is limiting our impact and power to be full participants in our own destiny. Nothing is changed by staying the course, or working within the boundaries of what is tried and true. The innovative and creative is always on the edges, the margins and the bumping up of those edges with others who are also reaching out in their own unique ways. Together in the periphery spaces, and what is created in the relationships when others reach in and out when they need to and can find the opportunity for moments to talk, glimpse, share, add to and take away from the conversation and sharing, is what is innovate, inspiring and meaningful learning. No part of this can be mandated or directed, as each person’s outer reaches and webs of connections are unique and varied – and each person knows what they need to grow.

If democracies require risk takers and a testing of acceptible limits- than we owe it to our students to model this in how we learn from and relate to others near and far through creative, inter-relatated and complex webs of community. And the best part is that we have the tools at our disposal to do this, more so that ever before 🙂 We simply have to show and live a life that allows for risk, for rebellion from the status quo, for adaptability, flexibility and respect for different learning styles. We say we should be attuned to this for our students – but I am not sure we really are truly respecting their learning preferences- and the learning styles and preferences of many of our colleagues. If we did, we would be more open to encouraging and growing more open learning communities that can be connected across, through and within varied disciplines, time zones,  educational systems and communication tools so that ALL find a way in to the community of  the learning space – lurking when they need to, contributing when they want to and feel inspired to, and supporting others in their journey as well. Giving and taking…. listening and responding… with an attitude of courageous risk taking, confident in knowing that there is not only one path to learning. If we have to “differentiate” our instruction for students, why should our own professional growth not also allow for differentiation, choice and flexibility?  If we want our future citizens to be risk takers, we have to model and show them the ways in which they can do this.

By not taking risks  and valuing/maintaining a learning structure that essentially ” is one that could never get anyone, anywhere, sent to prison, then strictly democratically speaking you’re useless.” – YIKES!  Who wants to see their life’s work as useless???????????  This motivates me to find the places where I can step out and be more couragous in my support and linking of teachers I work with in my school division who already are learning in those non-formal places with as many others as I can. Most don’t care for the publicity and are generous and more than willing to help others – becuase they are, as one of my colleagues put it, “from the school of beg, borrow and steal”. They are not possessive of their resources, ideas or materials and more than willing (and flattered) to give them to others. We need more, not less, of this kind of connectivism, which tends to be nurtured and grows exponentially in the open learning spaces we create for ourselves when we give ourselves permission to jump into the swiftly flowing rivers of open education and social media. Otherwise, we risk feeling within ourselves and being seen by the public as “utterly useless”! 🙂

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