Connected learning and Generative themes

I was just reading Clare’s post discussing Stephen  Downes’ (2011) article regarding connecting for learning, and the journey involved in the learning rather than the end product.

She quotes:

“what you’re doing when you share is to create material that other people can learn from. Your sharing creates more content ….People appreciate that, you will probably appreciate the content other people …share with you.” (Downes, 2011).

I was recently reading Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change by Ira Shore (1992). The introduction to this book I find interesting and challenging. Shore talks about his first day of teaching a writing class to students who had failed their initial College entry writing exam. They were angry, didn’t want to participate and didn’t feel like they had the agency to participate. Shore asked them an open ended question, “Why did you hate the test?”, “What’s wrong with the test? Why is it unfair?”

After asking these questions, hands flew up everywhere! “The students found their voices, enough to carry us through a ferocious hour, once I found a generative theme” (Shore 1992 p.3).

This notion of a “generative theme” is further expounded as Shore goes on to describe how one person’s ideas led to another’s and another’s, culminating in the students (who failed their entry basic writing exam) critiquing University policy and coming up with alternatives.

I have found these “generative themes” within NGL. One person blogs about something, then someone else takes their idea and furthers it with more literature and soon, so much content is developed, it feels impossible to take it all in. Yet, I feel this is democratic learning at its finest. Students are able to critically evaluate, position theory within their context and recognise the biases and assumptions in learning.

What a powerful tool for our students to engage in!


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