As an adult, how does one continue to grow and learn? Well, I believe the answer lies in the theory of connectivism. If you are unfamiliar with connectivism, let me give you the definition as stated by George Siemens, creator of the connectivist theory, "Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired and the ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital" (Davis, Edmunds, & Kelly-Bateman, 2008). Basically what this means is connectivism is all about networking and making connections to learn new information. Learning happens everywhere; it's not just something that is saved for the classroom. Learning is the "intersection of prior knowledge, experience, perception, reality, comprehension..." (Davis, Edmunds, Kelly-Bateman, 2008). The above graphic explains some of my personal learning networks--there are my online social networks, professional development, and then the internet in general. These are the main areas that I use nowadays to further my knowledge.
There is really only one area that is not located online and that is my place of employment, Colegio Americano de Torreon (CAT). At CAT we have various meetings throughout the month--grade team, department, staff, and the occasional in-service. Yet currently we are swamped with preparing ourselves for our upcoming accreditation in the fall of 2013 so I felt like there wasn't enough professional development happening to help me grow as an educator. What is one to do when you're stuck in Mexico and want more professional development? I hit the internet.
There is a plethora of resources available to me online and, especially with social networking, I get to see what is most popular among other educators and I get to connect with people who have written the textbooks I use in my classes. Using Twitter to follow people like Carol Jago, Kylene Beers, Jim Burke, DianeRavitch, and others as well as organizations like NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English), Edutopia, NWP (National Writing Project), NPR (National Public Radio), and TED Talks to name only a few, has opened the door to resources from well-known and respected experts and organizations. I don't need to spend as much time searching for information; it comes to me. The same is true with my Google Reader account that links me to the blogs I want to read. Likewise, I've been using Pinterest to find ideas from other teachers that I plan to use in my classroom. Finding information is quick and easy; however, one must not forget to determine if the information is reliable. The old adage is even truer today: You can't believe everything you read/hear.
Learning for me as an adult has changed drastically because most of it happens online. I'm even studying my master's degree online at Walden University. Sauve (2007) said, “…formal learning once or twice a year doesn’t provide employees with the experience of knowledge they need to find ongoing success on the job” (p. 22). CAT used to have a master's program through SUNY (State University of New York) Buffalo, but they discontinued the program shortly after I began working there. I was left with a desire for more professional development and I have found that through Walden, social networking sites, and other internet resources. As Friedman (2005) said, I am able to "innovate without having to emigrate." In essence by utilizing the online tools I have already set up (especially Twitter, Pinterest, Google Reader, and Diigo) I am creating my own classroom and my own curriculum centered around topics that are meaningful and important to me. My physical location does not limit my access to information because I can use my networks to help me find relevant and reliable information that will help me grow professionally and personally, and I believe that is what connectivism is all about.
Friedman, T. (2005, April 3). It's a flat world, after all. The New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2012 from http://www.nytimes.com
Sauve, E. (2007). Informal knowledge transfer. T+D, 61(3), 22-24.