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  • Writer's pictureAmy Burvall

Thinkerings Episode 1: Knowledge as Connection

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I’ve been wanting to produce a little animated vlog series called “Thinkerings” – where I discuss my “what ifs” in eduction, new literacies and media, art, and technology.

The first few will most likely be remixes to some extent of some blog posts.

For the first episode, I wanted to do something about networked knowledge – and knowledge as connection. the big question is:

What if we valued connections as dearly as we do “knowledge”?

This came about because of  a few things I did while teaching Theory of Knowledge (such as the “Twitter question of the week” and interdisciplinary connection reflections), and many things I’m incorporating now in my curriculum writing.

In the video I describe ways in which students can

Connect within the Course

as well as

Connect outside of the Course

Some ideas, like collaborative projects, class wikis or G+ communities, or individual student blogs with blogging groups might not seem that new (at least I hope they don’t!).

But the idea of putting CONNECTION and NETWORK-BUILDING at the forefront should perhaps challenge our traditional perspective of

what knowledge is…

Increasingly, learning is personal (as in personal pathways), informal, untethered (to time or space), self-directed, and


This of course is facilitated by the open web and social media tools, though I think to a certain extent the best way to learn has always had those characteristics (you can see my point in this 20 second video). This brings us back to the Gutenberg Parenthesis theory again, where we are “moving forward to the past”, but I digress.

Some of my favourite ideas included in the video are:

Connection Maps: visualizing and articulating how:

your present unit of study connects with previous ones in the course

how your entire course curriculum connects to other disciplines (this would be great for PD with teachers)

the extent of the connections the student has made- both online and “IRL” (for want of a better expression though  think online IS “real life”) in terms of people, web sites, feeds , etc.


Twitter Question of the Weeks plus Passion Questions: 

The students or teacher can develop one open-ended “question of the week” and post on Twitter with a designated hashtag. Not only can students respond (on their own time any time throughout the week and as many times as they like), but – and here is the best part – the WORLD can chime in. This breaks the boundaries of the classroom and gets students interacting with potential experts in the field or simply interested folks of any age.

Passion questions are student generated “big questions” that the student poses on social media (I suggest a balance of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or whatever else they might use – perhaps even Quora). The student must follow and track the conversation happening around this question for a designated time. Ideally, the conversation is archived with something like Storify and the student may reflect on the results. Now that Twitter offers polls, that could be interesting too!

The Video

note on process: I used the Reflector app to mirror my iPad to my Mac laptop. The Reflector app records in real time and I sped up the clips in iMovie. The app I use to draw with is Paper by 53. Voiceovers were simply Voice Memo recordings on my iPhone 5.

I shared on Twitter and one of my BLC buddies Garth Holman (@GarthHolman) decided to show his class. Here was some of the feedback:

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Garth was kind enough to send me the direct comments from students and I’ve pulled out some to post here. (I also enjoyed their constructive critique on how I can make the video better – one of the students wished I could explain the “dot-connecting” with more detail, so I might add that here).

“I thought that the idea of being able to communicate with people around the world will really boost our education, because not all people learn the same thing around the world.”

“Every child and student has the right to create their own web of knowledge and learn in a way that they can connect with how and what they are learning.”

“I really like the way you think about the world. It is really interesting the way you talk about connections. We already do blogs in school, but I never really thought about my blog the way you thought about it. Thank you for making me think in a different way about the world, I hope you keep on making great videos.”

“In my school everyone has a blog buddy and we get to see their blogs and they can see ours. We comment on each others blogs and personal I think it is really helpful and interesting so see how other kids, that we have never meet before, think about what I write. Your ideas were really good and I think more schools should start to use them.”

“I really enjoyed this video because it showed that school and learning isn’t all about just memorizing and knowing information, it’s about connecting with others online or in person and talking about what they know and where they get information which can later help you.”

“My what if’s about school would be what if we didn’t always focus on our school work and learning, but also focus on how we all mean something or how we could all change the world one day.”

“If we were to interact with other people, it would make us a stronger society. Chatting with people helps us with our ability to communicate and collaborate with our peers. So if we were to make a connection to other peoples life style with our thinking, it would make the conversation a lot more interesting. Like if I was to talk about my age group experience with other people that are my age all around the age. If all the people around the world my age could talk about the what-ifs and the how-comes then we would have a greater conversation with a fuller idea. It would help us understand the different situations around the world. All the what-ifs. All the how-comes. It would make the whole world understand each other so much more. It would help us understand our surroundings, and the cultures we all pass by every single day. Without even reckoning that we do. If we were to concentrate on the little known facts, then it would help us fill in the empty puzzle pieces in the bigger picture.”

Coincidentally, my friend and mentor Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) just one day later posted this enlightening interview about the importance of learning networks:

“I don’t think you can do anything on your own anymore” – Maarten de Laat

Maarten mentions validating information as well, which brings me to mind of Howard Rheingold’s “Crap Detection” (also featured in my video).

#connectedlearning #networks #students #garthholman #SteveWheeler #socialmedia #networkedknowledge #education #maartendelaat #knowledge #connected #amyburvall #learning #howardrheingold

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