links for 2008-11-01

If I Knew Then…

…what I know now, I often wonder how things would have turned out.

I grew up in a regular community; nothing too spectacular.  I took the conservative, traditional route – went to high school – had a good time – graduated with honours and then moved along to university – had a good time – got reasonable marks and a couple of degrees and a job.

In that world, when you got the degree, that pretty much gave you everything thing that you needed to be successful.  You had the knowledge and the paper and then away you go.  For me, learning didn’t stop there.  I took upgrading courses and stayed on top of my area of interest – computer science, mathematics, teaching to the best of my abilities.

Learning would trickle along with days’ experiences followed by great jumps in learning at conferences or summer school.  As a classroom teacher, in computer science, learning is never ending as you try to wiggle inside the teenage mind and understand how they problem solve as opposed to how you do.  What’s exciting and makes computer science so attractive is that there is no single best way to do things.  We honour and respect the ability of others to solve problems and it is always a great aha moment when there’s a breakthrough as you finally knock down that final barrier to success and the darn thing actually works.

A computer science classroom requires collaboration.  No programmer stands alone for long and the best experiences are borne when you can accept the fact that many minds are much better than one.

I’ve always worked in collaborative settings but nothing has prepared me for the collaboration that leaps forward when you develop a personal learning network on a global scale.  These networks are quite easily facilitated technically by a computer and connectivity and then diving into your social learning community.  For me, it is primarily Twitter but I’ve been seen in other places as well.

I create a monthly newsletter that I share with anyone who cares to read it.  I have a forced deadine for the first of each month on a school day.  As I prepare for what content I wish to share, I reflect back on the learning that I have done for the past month.  It used to be drudgery finding topics.  Now, it’s drudgery to weed out the best of the best that I want to include.

Learning used to be easy.  You just picked up a book and all that you needed to know was within the covers.  (well, mostly…)  With a connected network of learners, there is so much and so many divergent topics.  How do you narrrow down and focus on one?

In previous worlds and times, it was especially important to focus on one subject area and become good enough at it to leap the hurdle at the end of the course.  I’m not all that sure that that is enough anymore.  Perhaps every course and every degree should have a “social learning” requirement if we truly believe that everyone should be a lifelong learner.  I often wonder if now I know more about everything else than what I did when I had a single subject focus.  With the tools that I’m currently using, it’s exponential in growth.

I’m not the only one thinking this way.  Check out this read from InsideHigherEd.  I wish I had these tools back then.

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