The Connected Teacher: Same goal, different words

Having listened to Professor Alec Couros discuss “The Connected Teacher” in the posted skype message assigned for this week, I admit I understood his enthusiasm, but I didn’t understand what he wished me to know sufficiently to reproduce the good effects he achieves in his classes. He discussed three elements:
Network for learning
The learning via the internet connection
The Summary of what was learned

To be fair to this project “A Domain of My Own” I am trying to understand how I could use his successes at my level of understanding, given my poor command of the language and literature (both singly composed (asynchronous) and threaded discussions of networked activity. It would appear to me that I might find a cognate process whose results of personal learning might be similar but whose language and perhaps path would be different (if indeed it would be different at all).

My first task to students might be:
1. Solve a problem that builds (goal that is not an end in itself-solitaire is not a goal). What do I mean? I’m trying to imagine structured learning where the results of one achievement provide the materials (intellectual, processual, or physical) to articulate another problem whose solution is predicated upon previous learning, but produces a different result.

I can imagine a student responding, without dissembling asking, “What is a problem?”
To this I might take the standard narrative approach–a problem is something that the protagonist lacks. Often in stories a protagonist leaves home because she lacks food, safety, or affection. Through travel she encounters other actors with whom she interacts and through these interactions she gains knowledge, or skills (even of communication).  Through the quest or series of interactions she gains experience and this personal quality then yields the solution.

The solution is the “lack liquidated” in the classic hausmärchen after which the resolution then is often marriage.

Another way of seeing this is initial repose-action-repose-resolution.
However one describes the state of resolution, it is condition of greater understanding. In our learning environment this can also lead to a new quest for new skills, or knowledge achievable, in part, because of the previous quest(s).

But beyond the learning necessary to specific solutions, the protagonist, provided she wishes to understand rather than just satisfy the lack, gains an understanding of a matrix of solution (I believe I heard this term from Michael Spencer). This matrix of solution I take to be a generalized, but personal method of problem solving that may be applied to other lacks on different problems with different topography and complexity. As Dr. Couros remarks, it is not the hardware/software. These surely will change over a short amount of time. Rather it is the mechanism of learning, of communicating to others the needs instrumental to resolving the lack.

I don’t pretend to be profound. Any player of a musical instrument must at some level acquire the skills necessary to play in cooperation with others, new tunes, with new pulses, or tempoes. The matrix of solution could be called competency.  No musician stops preparing prior to performance. The motions of tonality, flow, precision, timing and many other elements I wouldn’t understand are reviewed and made ready to solve the performance at hand.

Would this be student-centered learning? I don’t know. Certainly the actors whom the protagonist meet in approaching the solution would not be limited to the instructor. Much would be learned in the interaction with other seekers. Clearly the path would not be predestined. And certainly the outcome is larger that the lack liquidated, because it supposes the continued problem solution toward competency in a subject, which is not a destination but a confident replication of result.

Aarne-Thompson 327



  • I saw Couros’ video as having a more straightforward message, I guess. The work he has students doing with learning in the open is what I find most inspiring — students have to identify a thing that they want/need to learn and then document that process openly, including taking stock of where they start and tell the story of where they end up. In doing so, they end up deeply considering not just WANT they learn but HOW they learn. One hopes then that this kind of meta-cognition can be applied to other domains in which they are learning.

    Does this kind of exercise seem to hold any promise/potential for you?

    • I feel that the articulating the how is analogous to identifying the process through which the student brings herself to the successful conclusion of a task. What is most difficult for me to see if whether there is anything relevant in the particular classes I teach to this process. Is there any reason for boundaries? What is the purpose of teachers?

      • With the #learningproject, students have a chance to learn a topic that they are passionate about, but haven’t had the time to pursue. Often, what we are most curious about gets put on the backburner because of things we *have* to learn (what others call ‘just-in-case’ learning – mandatory curriculum, just in case you ever need it, as our best guess of what is needed). Students focus on the process of their learning – they are urged to use both online and offline resources (and often ‘resources’ means people). Students are required to share these resources, document their learning, and to be transparent about how they are learning. It is the hope through these processes that students (who are on their way to becoming teachers) will better understand resources that are available and the processes involved, but also, they are exposed to passion-based learning.

        Hope that extends your knowledge on this a little bit. Thanks very much for your reflection.


        • Yes passion for learning is certainly a most admirable condition. Definitely this is a condition that persons who will enter teaching should possess. I am soon leaving teaching and find my passion for teaching ‘just-in-case’ learning is fading. I was very surprised that you responded to this post. It is part of the changes to the connectedness of social media that is present and evidenced by your response. If I had chosen your writing to read I would be more truthfully able to say I understand. Your writing was however selected by my instructor. I am not unhappy that she made this choice, but neither can I report that I am passionate about the subject, or that she may not have been engaging in ‘just-in-case’ teaching.

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