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Ambient… February 26, 2009

Posted by handspiker in Uncategorized.
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Last nights class with Stephen Downes was one of the best so far for me in our course. To me Stephen seemed to be pulling all our previous talks (connectivism, sharing, learning, etc.) into one. This cleared much up for me in a positive way. He seemed to lose me in the later part of the discussion with the terminology and technical talk, but there was one concept that really drew me in. That was ambient learning.

The idea of ambient learning where we can learn everywhere at any time I think is the true mark of what education may strive to be. To often we think of education in a formal sense, where walls in a classroom or institution surround us. Much of the early years of our life is learning, not in formalized sense but in an experiential way. As a child we experience our learning though our actions and inactions. We learn manner life lessons this way.

Many teachers are striving toward this. I know I am. Students and some teachers are tired of the “stagnant” environment that we are placed in. Is that conducive to learning? Under the fluorescent lights, tiny windows, rows and desks? Perhaps for some students. I know in my fall action research project I have found myself best learning under this experiential manner and many of my students seemed to blossom during this experiential phase.

An off the cuff remark made last year to our community coordinator led to the planning and currently attempted building of an outdoor classroom. This classroom is not tradional with walls but an open-air concept with gardens, trees, shrubs, etc. With studies saying that fresh air and exposure to sun increasing the benefits of education it seemed like a logical exploration. The students will learn as much if not more in planning, constructing and maintaining the facility than in a traditional classroom.

As a father of two boys I see ambient learning about everywhere at any time using life as the learning backdrop. It is a daily occurrence using life to teach my 5 and 2.5-year-old lessons that will stick with them. Isn’t that the goal of an educator? Do our lessons about the Structure of Royal Government in New France, Ultra Vires in Law 30, or the Brain is Psych 20 stick with them? Maybe, but probably more than likely not. Perhaps if we look at the stagnancy in today’s education system and reshape it, perhaps it could work better.



1. Stephen Downes - February 26, 2009

I’m sorry the technical stuff at the end wasn’t so useful for you. The reason it was important to include this was to emphasize that the concepts I discuss are not pie-in-the-sky ideas, that they have a real foundation with real stuff that works and is available now.

2. courosa - February 27, 2009

I am really glad the topic resonated for you. Ambient learning will be an incredibly important concept in the future, IMHO, and I am glad you can see the potential.

By the way, you may want to try hyperlinking names (like Stephen Downes) in your blog posts when you write. This will often alert the authors that you are talking about them. It’s useful for keeping conversations alive.

3. JMac - February 27, 2009

Right on, Todd. I often send my kids to do tasks in couples or groups into the hallways,libraries, outside or whereever, just to mix things up and enhance the ambience. It is funny, however, as I thinkabout this…kids can watch 8 movies back to back but Iit is my goal to charge them up in a 55 minute period. Maybe they don’t want to move around.

4. Kim - March 1, 2009

As a parent and teacher who is learning throughout my Master’s journey, I am beginning to see the disconnect between how we teach students and how they learn. I always thought the most important part of any unit of study was the test at the end to find out how much the students know. My daughter is just beginning to be expected to study for tests and write tests at school. We study with her but the content so far, is of interest to her and always has been. She knows this stuff cold because of her interest and because she has been learning about it since she began to talk; because of her ambient learning. So she is at an advantage in her class compared to her classmates who may not have an interest or may not have been exposed to the content before. From a parent’s perspective I really wondered about the point of the test. And yet, her teachers (and myself included) are required to measure how much our students know somehow.

5. megan gerwing - March 2, 2009

Ambient learning… I like how you explained that Todd. It is really helping me to fill in the gaps about Stephen’s message. It also makes me feel better that a techno-savy guy like you felt a little lost at the end of the lecture ;), I had no idea what was going on.

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