Schalk Merwe Louw
Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2009 Short Paper 2
In this paper I am going to attempt to shed some light on the changing roles of educators at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. I am currently employed at the UFS as an Instructional Designer in the Division E-Learning. My job is to facilitate higher learning in an online environment and in order to do this properly I need to work closely with the lecturers and Teaching and Learning Managers. Therefore I have some insight to the challenges that teachers face.
The traditional method of face-to-face teaching is still used as the default means of teaching, but blended learning is being used more frequently as of late. We are at present in the stage where the early adopters appreciate the value of online learning, understand their role in facilitating online learning and have taken up the charge and are using blended- and online learning. The problem that arises with the early majority of adopters is that they feel that they are becoming obsolete as teachers. When confronted with this question we at the Division try and explain to them that in the connectivist framework, their roles as teachers are even more important than in the face-to-face sessions. In face- to-face sessions, content and information is transmitted from the lecturer to the student. Students are seen as empty vessels that need to be filled by the knowledge from the lecturer. When lecturers hear that learners must form their own connections and networks and learn from that, they feel that they have become obsolete, when in fact their job is even more important than before. In my view the educators main function in a connectivism framework is to steer the students in the right direction, with the advent of Web 2.0 technologies there is such a vast amount of information out there, it is easy to be overwhelmed by it all (especially if the student is new to the information being presented). The educator must therefore guide the student in the right direction and allow then to forge their own knowledge by connecting with different people and networks by means of the different tools available to them. By doing this, educators are empowering deep learning in their students, replacing the old sterile transfer of facts with connections and networks that will last them a lifetime and facilitate lifelong learning.
On a practical level, I found the work of Brennan (2005 p. 5) is very closely related with what we would like lecturers to understand about teaching in a connectivist way. It was found that the most effective practices engaged learners in constructivist approaches which develop cognitive skills through high levels of interactivity between all participants to encourage synthesis and analysis for ‘deep learning’ involving consistent levels of feedback by teachers who are imaginative, flexible, technologically gymnastic, committed, responsible and expert communicators. If our lectures can take this message to heart and implement it, I think we have done our job. Shifting mindsets from what is to what could be.
Brennan, R. 2003, One size doesn’t fit all – Pedagogy in the online environment – Volume 1