Thursday, March 31, 2011

Never Stop Dancing

The other day, George Siemens mentioned Terry Anderson's dance metaphor as it relates to learning and pedagogy so I tracked down Anderson's paper on the subject and enjoyed every minute of it with today's morning coffee. It's a must-read for those looking for practical ways to incorporate Siemens' principles of connectivism into the design of modern, networked distance education programs.

Anderson's dance metaphor suggests that technology "sets the beat and timing...and pedagogy defines the moves" (p.1). As changes and advancements occur in both the theories and the technology - in other words, if the dance is thrown off - both technology and pedagogy can adjust to create a flow and rhythm again. He talks about the creative and unique moves the learner throws in to enhance the dance further.

I like this dance metaphor in relation to connectivism - the idea that you never need to stand on the sidelines or dance alone in the dark (oh! doesn't everybody do that?). Rather, you can "dance with anyone, anywhere, anytime coupled with the vast sound tracks and light shows (open education resources) accessible on the Net, (and) demand that learning be an experience of connecting and applying resources, rather than memorizing particular tunes or steps. The art of improvisation, of learning to dance, becomes the life learning skill - accumulating static data or memorizing scripts becomes obsolete." (p4).

What does this mean for our learners? Students should be encouraged to learn together "while retaining individual control over their time, space, presence, activity, identity" (p.5). Making use of networked social technology tools in the context of self-paced programs is key to achieving this, including tools which allow learners to declare their presence, communicate, collaborate, and reflect.

A couple weeks ago, I was thinking about flash mobs and what a great metaphor they are for connectivism. Watch the flash mob below and as you do, think about this metaphor. Notice how it starts: a few people start things off and more and more join. You can come as you are. You can stand there and smile or bop your head (lurk?), or you can jump right in and get fully involved, while letting your own creativity shine in your moves. Your individual creativity is brought to the network of dancers who then disperse back into the crowd and make new or revive old connections. In other words, when the music stops, the people don't stop moving. They just keep going about their business, interacting and forming new connections wherever they go. The network never ends. Although flash mobs are becoming more predictable in their frequency of occurrence these days, they are still unpredictable in that you never know when or where they will occur. This reminds me a lot of the unpredictability found in the chaos of connectivism.

And now I present to you: connectivism at its finest:

And similarly, as the music of this course ends, the network will never stop dancing. Nor will the light shows. In the 21st century, you really have no option but to become a dancer.



  1. Olá Debbie, gostei muito da sua postagem, espero a sua visita em meu blog!

  2. "concerned and careful" and creative blogger!

    Loved the video! Was quite a production.

    Will now read Anderson's dance article.

    Many thanks!

  3. This can be done virtually as well. Look at how this video is presented, with what could be synapses connecting neurons.


  4. Thanks for the comments - all of you. Eric Whitacre's project is amazing! I hadn't heard of it before so thanks for the link to the pre-premiere description of what he did. The result? A beautiful virtual choir that demonstrates our need and ability to connect to a worldwide community, and a powerful demonstration of what can happen when we make those connections and willingly collaborate. Love this!