Why is it so difficult to change the practice of education?
Because learning mechanisms involve subtle differences that are at odds with the binary thinking in terms of either correct or incorrect of education leaders.
For many, learning still consists of absorbing facts, i. e. forming simple, binary (right or wrong) connections between concepts such as “Apple” and “Red”. In contrast, vague connections that are initially weak and strengthen over time are slighly different. However, some don’t notice that such patterns are a valid alternative view but simply dismiss it as an annoyingly imprecise defective. And the ambiguity of two valid approaches (or connections of non-binary, varying strenghts) is similarly alien to them.
Of course it is not easy to notice the differences involved in thinking since this takes place in the inaccessible preverbal domain (behind the mouth & ear firewall, so to speak). And few have called their own thinking styles into question. So, leaders often don’t even notice what a difference New Media makes. They just don’t see its relevance, and it does not resonate with them. In my observation, this is the primary reason, long before they explicitly object to a new idea involving new media as being a cost factor or a threat of control.
When someone is hardly aware of their own cognitive style, it is hard to bear the ambiguity of different styles being effective, and of different theories being “correct”. Typically, theories are seen as one-size-fits-all solutions that need to be globally applied because they are the panacea. In the CCK08 discussions I noticed a somewhat fatalistic undercurrent that theories come and go. Like a pendulum swinging, one “correct” theory followed another. Diversity was only allowed in a perverted form like the unfortunate VAK theory that, IMO, was just an alibi for masked ability stances.
Obviously, binary minds need to grab hold of such universal or trendy theories, and for many teachers they may offer a reassurance when their control-oriented style is challenged during everyday confrontation with the diverse students. And of course, the notion of correct vs. incorrect is naturally important for teachers who mark responses every day.
What kinds of opportunities can we embrace if we are able to make fundamental and systemic changes?
If we understand “fundamental” in the sense of a “better”, prescriptive, panacea theory, the opportunities are: Many years of struggle and at best a few years of success before the pendulum swings back. If we aim for a fundamental change not only of education but of personal ethical attitudes, such a prescriptive theory is a desirable but very long-term thing where the word “opportunities” does not fit.
If we apply “fundamental” to the understanding of the basics of diverse thinking styles and if we accommodate for the coexistence of both connectivist and older styles, the theory could best leverage its descriptive strength by offering a whole new view as described previously.
Further opportunities abound but I can only speculate and hint. Particularly, the theory explains mechanisms of learning that are best suited for coping with the growing complexity of our information rich world, by bridging literate abstractions and “oral” immediacy. And I suspect that connectivism therefore has the potential to provide the appropriate cognitive tools to eventually combine Egan’s “three conflicting pillars”, i. e., (i) socializing, (ii) knowledge about what is real and true, and (iii) encouraging the development of individual potential (which, in turn, perhaps correspond to Lisa’s “industrialized education”, Locke, and Rousseau….?)
What can we learn from voices of resistance?
The most telling voices of resistance are not the above institutional stake-holders who just don’t see the relevance, but rather the affected subjects. Teachers and students objecting to reforms are not always just lazy and lethargic.
Teacher’s inertia may also result from great frustrations about recurrent transitory theory hypes. All they expect from another fundamental change is another period of muddle and mess. Their voices may suggest to rethink to scope of fundamental changes imposed on them from top down.
And learners’ avoidance of busy participative activities does not always mean a passive consumption mindset that longs for the Nuremberg Funnel. Rather, some sort of activities may just suit their preferences and styles less than the teacher finds natural due to their own style. Another source of resistance may be the extent of openness discussed yesterday.
Can our current world of weak ties and easy connections produce the depth of learning required to meet the complex challenges facing our future?
Yes, and the weak connections are a core element of connectivism. Weak conceptual ties may become stronger, and then they afford more valuable depth of learning because they are anchored in a broader web and hence are more robust.
And personal/ external connections are in many ways able to foster the conceptual connections.
A major misconception may, however, arise from the disproportionate emphasis of the personal ties (and especially the “easy connections” on the internet) in contrast to the less spectacular conceptual layer ones. Such a misconception may, of course, add to the above resistance.