Authors: Anita Fahrenbruch, Constantinos Hatzigeorgiou (Dino) and Joyce Wimmer
We wanted to test the internet on its capability to produce usable learning content on a subject neither of us had any knowledge about. We ended up choosing basket weaving as a topic for our research and doing a Google search on ‘basket weaving’ produced over 25,300,000 hits in 0.55 seconds. We decided to narrow our search to ‘pine needle basket weaving’, which produced over 1,670,000 in 0.59 seconds. Still an abundance of resources to evaluate and compare, now we needed to use our own judgements and decide which of these resources would be useful to us and which we could discard or ignore (Anderson, 2008, p. 41). The search yielded many YouTube “how to” videos, websites which offered instructions, images of pine needle baskets on Pinterest, pine needle basket weaving courses and events as well as information on joining the National Basketry Organization. This corresponds to Weller (2011) as he mentions that content is free, abundant and varied (p. 228).
When we collaborated on our findings, there were a few lessons learned from this activity while reflecting on how we engaged in Weller’s theoretical approach of connectivism ourselves and how we could apply this approach in our teaching practice. While sifting through the abundance of content/resources to determine what is better or not and what is useful, we each became the ‘expert’, actively learning more about this new topic and “connecting specialized nodes of information resources” (Weller, 2011, p.230). By sifting through the vast resources afforded to us, we engaged in learning more and more about our topic (Anderson, 2008, p. 43). We found that abundance creates an issue of quality; therefore, as we selected content we made “connections between fields, ideas, and concepts” (p. 230) and we did so with the learning intent in mind. We needed to decide what would be useful for the learning process of students and what would provide options to learners. This challenged us to be critical of what we curated. From what we found on the web, we determined there was definitely enough information available to help us learn about our topic and possibly be successful in producing a pine needle basket ourselves or teach others how to make one.
Teaching “Basket Weaving 101”
If we were to become the instructors for a pine needle basket weaving course, we would consider engaging in the following learning theories when designing the content:
(1) behaviourism – breaking down the task of how to make a pine needle basket into step by step instructions
(2) cognitivism – taking into consideration the multiple intelligences/learning styles of our students/participants, offering diverse learning materials such as written instructions and videos
(3) constructivism – “places the focus on the individual who constructs their own knowledge through activity” (p.229), allowing students to engage creatively in the production of their own unique basket design.
(4) connectivism – Weller (2011) “learning and knowledge rest in diversity of opinions, learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes of information resources” (p.230) Giving students the opportunity to collaborate with each other in adding to the resources already made available.
(5) resource-based learning – “places resources in the foreground of learning, and the learner’s interaction and selection of these” (Weller, 2011, p.228). This connects back into connectivism and the compiling and sharing of selected resources. Students would compile their own resource lists in the form of a collaborate creation of a wiki. “Learning environments are created and used by learners to access, process, filter, recommend, and apply information” (Anderson, 2008, p. 43).
We agree with Weller (2011) that once we engaged in searching for learning materials, content was “abundant, varied and free” (p. 228) and learning was found in “non-human appliances” (p. 230). The learning that occurred, simply through engaging with the web and what it had to offer, was to experience Weller’s connectivism approach. As Anderson (2008) says “a goal of connectivist learning is to create new connections…to expand upon and build learning networks” (p. 43). We definitely connected over the art of basket weaving. Together we expanded our knowledge on a craft that had been unfamiliar to us and together we became ‘experts’. At least until something new about pine needle basket weaving becomes available on the web, something we have not discovered yet.
Anderson, T. (2016). Chapter 3: Theories for Learning with Emerging Technologies. In Veletsianos, G. (Ed). Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning: Foundations and Applications. Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press.
Weller, M. (2011). A pedagogy of abundance. Spanish Journal of Pedagogy, 249, 223–236.