Well I have been hard at work writing my educational philosophy for my Dean of Business application at Middlesex Communit College and thought I would share it with the world for critiquing.
Having worked at Middlesex Community College for 14 years, many of them with Matthew Olson; my educational philosophy was grounded in Constructivism. The main points of which are: 1) students must build their contextual knowledge through practical activities with guidance from the instructor; and 2) learning is a social endeavor. However, during this past summer I took part in EduMOOC –Online Learning Today and Tomorrow, a Massive Open Online Course, which was based in Connectivist theory, and I feel this is the more appropriate philosophy for helping the 21st century community college learner.
When I signed up for the EduMOOC, an 8-week free seminar about online learning that focused on using open source and free applications to better reach the mobile online learner, I had never heard of Connectivism. Connectivist theory agrees with Constructivist ideals of learning as a creation process and social activity, but then diverts to the following principles:
- Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
- Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
- Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
- Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
- Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
- Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
- Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
- Decision making is itself a learning process.
- Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality (Siemans, 2004).
All of these principles are important to molding employable Business and Legal Studies graduates, and tie directly to the primary values of the Middlesex Community College mission. The learning environment of a connectivist education must be interactive and technology abundant in order to access new knowledge. I believe it is our job as administrators to ensure, by providing professional development and program review, that faculty and students utilize the technological learning environment we provide them.
The educational providers must be supportive in order for the learner to feel confident asking for help with their decision making process. As a student advisor, I help students plan out their future. By asking students where they see themselves in 5 years and how they think Middlesex Community College will help them achieve their goals, the student and I can effectively create a course schedule that fulfills his/her needs.
In these difficult economic times, workforce development is essential for both the employee and employer. The connectivist approach to workforce development focuses on supplying new knowledge/training and connections to up-to-date information. This training allows the unemployed to keep their skill current for potential positions; it also allows employers to deploy online training in an inexpensive manner.
Middlesex Community College’s civic engagement programs, live service learning, allow participants to put the classroom learning into practice. By doing this students see connections between theoretical concepts and real world applications. I believe that this type of authentic learning opportunity is essential in a business or law degree, showing students that getting ahead is not always as important as giving back.
While service learning focuses students’ learning on our local community, the international fellowships allow them a chance to impact the global community. These opportunities broaden informational resources and provide a prospect of interacting with diverse ideas.
And finally by trying to continually grow your learning connections and considering diverse opinions Connectivism had a built in commitment to excellence, as you are continually seeking the newest and best knowledge available. This is why professional development is such an important part of teaching; it provides faculty and staff with a varied set of best practices, and asks them to consider implementation in their classrooms. Thus providing our 21st century learner with technology, and pedagogy that will help form them into the outstanding individuals we know they can become.
Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved September 20, 2011 from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm.