This morning, I came across the ‘Blimage Challenge’ (BLog IMAGE) which originated a few days ago when Amy Burvall challenged Steve Wheeler to create a learning-related blog post based on a hand-drawn image that Amy would provide.
— Amy Burvall (@amyburvall) July 21, 2015
So Amy sent three images, giving Steve the choice of which image to write about, but he went ahead and incorporated all three images into a post.
The idea has since grown and the posts are being curated on a Pinterest board.
Cool. I think it is a great idea to think metaphorically about what we do as educators and using images to represent ideas is an effective way to do that.
Here is my take on one of Amy’s initial images.
The idea of learning as a networked activity is compelling for me. Not only do we have some interesting ideas floating around about connectivism, but the idea itself is personally compelling.
I think that we are generally wired for community. We can’t be who we are intended to be unless those around us are who they are intended to be, and those around us benefit when we are who we are intended to be.
Cooperative learning researchers call this positive interdependence.
Amy’s image, in the background of this little reflection, is a good reminder of several characteristics of learning in networks beyond the idea of positive interdependence.
Ideas Have Consequences
Like the nodes in the image are rooted in the nodes previous to them (assuming the flower pot at the bottom is the ‘source’ or ‘ground’ of those ideas), our ideas about students and about learning and about the value of education must be grounded in ideas that can withstand scrutiny, floods, drought, criticism, praise, and encouragement.
If our foundational ideas are sketchy, then we risk building a house of cards, especially given the speed at which ideas propagate through our hyper-connected culture.
We are All in this Together
My family and I spent two years living and working in Japan and our kiddos were thrust into our local elementary school, which was inadequately prepared to integrate these two Canadian kids into the life of the school. Not only were there very few teachers who spoke any English, but the cultural differences between Canada (individualistic) and Japan (collectivist) made for some interesting times.
I can remember sitting in on one of my son’s grade 2 math classes. Like most classrooms, the teacher would call upon a particular student to respond to a question. But unlike any Canadian classroom that I have experienced, the entire class would indicate whether the student’s answer was correct (Hai! So desu!) or incorrect (Chigau, yo!).
This was rather unsettling for me and my individualistic tendencies. Imagine a Canadian classroom where a grade two student incorrectly answers a teachers question and the entire class responds in unison ‘No! You’re wrong!’
It took me a while to realize that the class response wasn’t a condemnation, but an encouragement to try again. It was an expression of solidarity, that the class was supporting the student while they worked through to the correct answer.
They were clearly in it together.
There are two ways that I think connections matter.
First, the connections that we make with other people are important. #blimage is, hopefully, an obvious example. Due to the connections between a few high-profile people, and their connections to the broader community, there are a whole mess of people from different contexts and backgrounds thinking and writing and sharing about learning in new ways.
The more we share and connect, the more we can learn from each other.
Second, connections between ideas matter. For me, this is precisely what I want my students to do. I may have my ideas about why a particular idea is important, but that likely doesn’t apply to my students. Their learning doesn’t become transformative until they make connections between new ideas and their own ideas, contexts, biases, and misconceptions. Realizing these connections is what we call critical thinking.
One of my go to ideas is the SOLO taxonomy, which is a way of thinking about how learning outcomes are structured and how student responses meet (or don’t) the intended outcome. The taxonomy describes five levels of understanding from ‘the student misses the point’ through to the highest level where there is complex understanding of an idea which is then related to a different idea or concept.
Furthermore, when we start to make connections between seemingly disparate ideas, when we live closer to the edges of multiple circles and networks, new ideas tend to bubble up somewhat spontaneously. Again, this can be seen clearly when browsing through the Pinterest board for #blimage. I encourage you to do so.
And there you have it.
I’ve posted some pics of mine below. I’d love it if they could be added to the mix and that they will inspire you to respond.
Mind the Gap
Bloom where you're planted.
the #blimage challenge by Colin Madland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.