“Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. ‘I store my knowledge in my friends’ is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people.”Karen Stephenson quote taken from Connectivism a learning theory for the digital age
I couldn’t agree more! This quote should be used as a mantra for educators everywhere! When I first became a teacher, I found it hard to decide on a particular format for teaching. At the time, I thought this was an inherent weakness that would ultimately lead to me failing as a facilitator of learning. However, I now believe that this period of trialling different teaching strategies is something that all teachers should be doing; not only at the start of their teaching journey but throughout their lives as an educator.
By storing and sharing knowledge with others, people begin to create a learning repostitory. This deposit box of shared information empowers them by allowing them to choose when, where or how they use and apply what they have learned from others. I remember a lecturer from my days as a trainee teacher explaining that teaching, using only your own experiences, was like turning up to an orchestra and trying to play all the instruments at the same time! If a teacher was to educate using only their own thoughts and ideas they might well succeed but I am guessing there would be more failure than success. By collecting and using other people’s knowledge we begin to build a better profile for our own lives in education; so here is my question-why shouldn’t this also be the case with the children we teach?
Do we gain knowledge through experiences? Is it innate (present at birth)? Do we acquire it through thinking and reasoning? Collectivism-A learning theory for the digital age-George Siemens
Although some knowledge may well be innate, I really don’t think that all knowledge is. I actually believe that knowledge is nurtured through the experience of sharing. In my own class of Year Three students, I would like to think that the children are growing their knowledge base by learning from those around them.
How are they collecting? Who are they collecting?
The people they are beginning to collect could be: their classmates-in the form of peer interactions in speaking and listening activities: it could come from carpet time when they are listening to a teacher’s first-hand experiences and ideas on a particular topic: it could also come from interacting with other children or teachers via email, TWITTER or some other digital medium. I really do believe that it is vitally important that children develop this habit of collecting other people in order to expand their knowledge base. I also think it is important to be aware that all three of these collection methods are of equal status when it comes to students learning to acquire and share knowledge.
As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses. Collectivism-A learning theory for the digital age-George Siemens
Although I previously mentioned that all three methods of collecting and sharing knowledge are equally important, I have to say that the one area that has pushed my students knowledge acquisition the furthest (in the shortest time) is the ability to share via a digital medium. And by digital sharing, I mean building an email community within the class, year group and school. I have included an example of an email conversation that I think highlights this third example of using a digital medium to share and acquire knowledge.
Neil Willis wrote: Ok guys, Two competitions to anybody checking their email. Competition one! Worth 4 Dojo points-Can anybody build a better snowman than this? Competition two-worth six Dojo points. Write a fantastic poem about the snow. Good luck Mr Willis
D(A student from my class)wrote: When is the dead line?
Neil Willis wrote: Let’s say next Tuesday!
D wrote:Snow Cold hands, numb nose. You might think my toes are froze. But, no. Boots of Justice.
Neil Willis wrote: Fantastic! Very Clever!
After I shared this poem with the rest of the class, many of them immediately started to talk about the reasons why they thought the poem was so effective and whether their own boots would in fact be boots of justice! So, by sharing this poem, they have collected another student’s experiences and added them to their depositories of knowledge. As mentioned in a previous post, we can use Jeff Utecht’s formula for networking to better demonstrate the connections being made:
Activity = Visibility = Connection opportunity
Or in this case
Connection opportunity = Activity = Visibility
Finally it has to be said that I am very much a people collector! I am happy to say that I have learned more about my job, my life and the world around me from my shared experiences with others than I have from any book, manuel or download. I can only hope that the students I have the good fortune to work with, will also learn to become collectors and distributors of knowledge…