Like Fire

bush fire growthIn a Talk With Howard Rheingold and Will Richardson now on Ustream – I was particularly taken with their discussion on how social media impacts pedagogy.

Rheingold talks about it acting like ‘fire’; ideas and interests to leap from one area to another quicker and faster than institutions can react and slow change may in part be due to the terms of employment not encouraging professional development leading to large scale pedagogical shifts in learning. Interest and peer driven social media in education allows teachers to make this shift regardless of institutional objection or indifference. Right now there is little alternative for teachers as ‘leaders’ dither and procrastinate.

I took from this conversation a real sense that the ‘systems’ binding and controlling pedagogy now will be less important in the future.

Constructivist approaches to learning that understand and embed social media in read/write approaches – brings about renewal. Renewal means staying relevant to the world around us, recognising that our 19th Century pedagogy is failing. Rheingold talks about ‘fire starting’ ideas – exemplified by someone posting a ‘tweet’,  they talk about how it gains their attention and takes them to new places and new people – where they learn. The example highlights how people are essentially interest-driven difference engines. We notice things that look interesting – especially if they also appear different.

Rheingold calls George Siemens online Connectivism course –  a ‘roll your own University’ – and that people are now finding connections and learning in places that are off the institutional radar.  Rheingold suggests that learning to prioritise and manage online activity is something we must to learn and teach. To focus on the immediate, but be aware of the peripheral opportunities and connections, and find time to explore them. Rhiengold talks further about how he has to manage his message boards for class, his blog, his social bookmarks and the various other ‘network’ demands that he considers vital to his professional life.

Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

This conversation highlighted to me that a ‘networked’ learner means being in at least two realms constantly – because we are at a time of cross-over. We cross back and forth from the 19th to the 21st Century. While some school leaders enjoy the ‘cudos’ that  creates – students need the renewal of pedagogy and schools need to support teachers in this goal – not alienate staff or continually debate wether or not Web2.0 is a ‘good idea’.

The conversation starts talking about the landscape around where Rheingold lives. Living in Australia, it amazes me how fast a bushfire can move and the devastation it appears to cause. I am equally amazed how fast the ecosystem renews itself – it is a natural process for which we cannot dictate terms – merely be prepared for the event.

The metaphor of the bush fire leaping great gaps in the pedagogical landscape, causing havoc and then renewing learning is entirely apt in Australia’s current K12 educational climate. Right now we have a few spot fires … but sooner or later the wind will change (or so the students hope).

Great interview that once again challenges my thinking.