Another dot in the blogosphere?

Categories of connectedness

Posted on: October 2, 2014

Last month #asiaED chatted about the connected classroom.

I wondered if teachers and educators shared a common understanding and implementation of being connected.

There are so many aspects of what it means to be connected. has a wonderful graphic they have shared under Creative Commons.

So far I have identified at least four non-mutually exclusive categories of connectedness as they relate to schooling and educational contexts:

  • infrastructure
  • social
  • content or expertise
  • real world

Infrastructure connectedness
This is the most basic form of connectedness. It answers the “Do you have wifi”? question. A slightly more ambitious question is whether the learning environments are wired enough so that there is ubiquitous wireless access.

A related question is whether schools have BYOD policies so that teachers and students can BYOC (C is for connections).

While folks in the anglosphere and so-called first world countries might assume infrastructural connectedness to be a given, it is a bad assumption to make because usage policies can limit actual usage.

Take two initiatives in Singapore for example.

On paper, the old and new nationwide Wireless@SG would provide free Internet access to individuals and businesses alike. Instead it has been unwittingly secure. So secure that it is difficult to log on, or if you were on, might have better luck treading molasses.

The SSOE (school standard operating environment) was meant to be the singular network all MOE schools in Singapore could enjoy. But only approved computers, mobile devices, routers, and anything with a MAC address could use it. Schools that tried to implement 1:1 computing or BYOD programmes had to find alternatives.

A few school leaders took the initiative to help themselves. Now there is a rollout of an alternative network in all schools called the SWN (segregated wireless network, see p.30 of this PDF).

If you want to talk about connectedness, do not underestimate this most basic component.

Social connectedness
How connected are you to your students?

I am not referring to the face-to-face time that teachers have with students in school. The transactions of this sort are supposed to be professional, formal, and focus largely on academics.

I am referring to how well we know our learners as complete human beings. Can you almost read their minds? How do you know if someone is having a bad day even before you seen him/her?

It is the human connection that I am referring to. These days social media is an enabler of this sort of connection no matter what the popular press and your largely ignorant instincts tell you.

Content connectedness
How connected are you to your stakeholders?

Social media platforms also allow teachers to connected with resources like other educators, content experts, parents, facilitators, community members, etc. Collectively, these human resources are your learning “materials” or they can link you with learning materials.

Another aspect of content connectedness is helping students see or make connections between seemingly isolated pieces of information. Just because we teach them in silos does not mean they must learn that way.

Our brains make connections at the cellular level, neuron to neuron. Whatever we learn should connect as well because we crave it at our core.

If our learners do not connect the dots or seek information on their own, it is only because schooling and our teaching has conditioned them to behave this way. It is time to help them reconnect.

Real Wider world connectedness
How is what you teach relevant to the real wider world? How is what students learn today connected to the rest of their lives?

These might be the toughest questions for teachers, particularly those who build an artificial bubble in class that bears no resemblance to the real wider world.

I am not referring to teachers who want to make their classrooms a safe and nurturing place. I am referring to teachers who think that the world comprises of textbook answers and test questions.

There is a derogatory saying about teachers: Those that can, do; those that can’t, teach. I have met teachers who do not connect with the real wider world and create the bubble world of grades, disconnected content, 19th century classrooms.

Any teacher who teaches Science content without nurturing scientific thinking or any language teacher that focuses on isolated rules or vocabulary, could be guilty of this.

If they insist that students learn about Science or writing instead of how to think like a scientist or write like a journalist, then they are living in a curricular bubble instead of the real wider world.

A scientist and writer do not just need content nor do they sit for tests. The content easily changes or becomes old. Their tests are social, ethical, or otherwise complex by nature, and something that paper tests do not prepare kids for.

So what is a disconnected teacher to do?

I recommend reading the Connected Learning Manifesto for a start and then doing something concrete today about getting connected.

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