This week, I decided to take a step back and look at the community of Connected Learning that I became part of five weeks ago when I started this online course. I definitely had some anxiety going into this class, because I am not a tech savvy person. I knew that the word “connected” meant getting in touch with people, and being that this was not a face-to-face class, the idea of connected over blog posts and twitter certainly took me out of my comfort zone. Reflecting on the past five weeks, however, I have really learned a lot. Most importantly, though, I feel very connected to all 13 of you out there! I have no idea what any of you look like, and I like that about this journey. I feel like I have a good sense of “who” you all are, from your style of writing and the things about education that you have shared. By definition, I feel like we’ve established a community. We are all sharing common interests and have common goals.
This course is very different than any other online course that I have taken. We are actively engaged, linking one another into conversations. Many times I’ll read someones blog, and instead of posting a comment it’ll take me to an interesting link which I’ll spend some time poking around at, which will take me to another…and then I’ll find something intriguing on that link and I’ll click even further to another. Often, that’s when I’ll stop and say, “Wow! Let me put this on my find 5!” The means of getting places have often come from the connection of others.
I noticed that by being part of this class, I have connected with educators from all different backgrounds. We all teach in different districts, so we come from unique experiences. When I post my ideas, they may come from things I’m experiencing with my students. Another teacher may be speaking from an ESL perspective, or from a math perspective. Although we all have so much in “common,” we are also so unique. This is what is great about communities. Because no two people are ever the same, we learn vast amounts from one another. This eye-opening experience has made me a better teacher, because it reminds me how important it is that we acknowledge our differences, and use those differences as learning opportunities. This connection that we all have established also has had tremendous affects on how I look at learning. Christina brings up topics to explore each week, really shedding light on the importance of these topics. For example, play in learning. We all know that playful learning is admirable and that kids need to “play.” But, I never did stop and put as much thought into play as I did last week. Reading about play, sharing my own ideas, reading other’s blog posts…wow! I have a whole new outlook on how vital it is to give students opportunities to practice self expression. This community I am part of has been so beneficial to me, in that it has made me a better person and a better teacher! If we can stress the importance of that to our students, and if we can guide them to establishing their own connections in community, they, too, will benefit in ways that are unimaginable! Take, for example, the student who is obsessed with the online game “Poptropica.” I know nothing about this game, but I do know that I have a student who lives and breathes Poptropica. Nobody else in my class has made that connection with this child. If, though, I get him involved in a community who values this online game as much as this child does, imagine the places that he could go! Imagine the similarities he would feel with other kids that are, “like” him.
Overall, the greatest part about this learning experience is that I didn’t even “choose” to be part of it, necessarily. I simply am seeking my master’s degree, and was told to “make a blog. Create a twitter handle. Join the gchat community.” I did all those things, (in hopes to get an A in this class of course…) and from that small step I took, I have been given a gateway to copious amounts of knowledge! For that, I am grateful. Thank you ED677 for sharing your knowledge with me, and for creating a vibrant learning community.