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Entering the Matrix

Entering the Matrix

The first time I saw The Matrix in the movie theaters, I was blown away by the whole movie.  The action, the premise, the special effects, and the philosophy.  

Watching Morpheus and Neo fight in a sparring program fulfilled my need to see people beating the snot out of each other.  But what really captured my imagination was the conversation that they have at the three minute mark of the clip below

We have the teacher asking the student about the virtual constraints on their own learning.  Choosing to believe that you are restricted by rules that have no bearing in the new ‘reality’ that exists.  

That line broke my brain.

Now, obviously, we do not have the ability to hook our brains up directly to a computer and upload information.  We must work at the learning process, and as the teacher, we have to find ways to engage our students directly in this.  

Early in my career, I would have said that I looked at building habits for my students with predictable ways to engage their learning.  Spanish class would have required a student to look at their vocab, create flash cards, drill, and then test.  Obviously if the test outcome is poor, they have not practiced enough.  

There are places where the behavioural theory is relevant to learning.  As highlighted in the clip from The Matrix, this event is not about assessing the final product, but assessing to see where the student needs to build out from.  The same way that the armed forces have a rigid training process, they train the person to respond to certain stimuli, so when the time comes, they respond automatically, as it has been drilled.  Again, it serves a purpose in education, but to focus mainly on stimulus response will fail many students.

Similarly, when we are only having students engage with material in a singular way, they may only retain a tiny portion of that material.  Cognitivism also has its benefits, but can be limited by a students interaction with the material.  As suggested by “The Learning Pyramid”, there are many ways to interact with the current learnings in a classroom.  And as highlighted by the ACRLog, a colourful chart with levels and numbers attached can mislead many in a profession.

There are many of my students who can read their material and lock it down.  Some who need to sit down and have a conversation about what they think they know.  Then there are those that you can sit down with, have a conversation, demonstrate for them, have them repeat, sketch it out for them, bring another student over and explain it in a different way, they write it down, and then tomorrow, they fail the test.

I would argue that each of the three main theories, behaviourism, cognitivism, and constructivism have a place in my classroom.  When looking at the theory of connectivism, this seems to be the realm that I am spending more time within.  

Knowing that I am no longer the only source of expertise is a plus.  There needs to be a willingness for the teacher to accept that they are only one single source of knowledge.  Some days, I will rely on my students to be my source of information, as their knowledge is just as important.

Technology has become an integral part of my classroom’s learning.  Need a drill for a skill?  Snag an app, let’s look at what is available, try a few out, evaluate, and then utilize it for your learning needs.

Discussion around how ideas connect is essential in my classroom.  We do a lot of writing, and there is a need to create links between what we studied in Fahrenheit 451 and how technology is driving us to self-censor our own lives.

Finally, as highlighted by Siemens,  being able to see how your decisions of today impact the reality of tomorrow is(are) an important lesson(s) to learn.

Thoughts:

  1. In what way do you allow your students to impact your teaching?
  2. Is there a theory that you believe holds less validity than others?
  3. What are you uncomfortable with when it comes to no longer being the ‘expert’?
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3 responses to “Entering the Matrix”

  1. With regards to your last question Brian I don’t necessarily feel uncomfortable with my lack of expertise (admitting that you don’t know something is not weakness), but I have quite a bit of difficulty with the idea that the Internet makes everyone (my students, myself and my colleagues included) feel like pseudo experts across a broad range of topics. The ultimate effect is that real subject area experts are being sidelined in their own discussions. During the pandemic medical doctors and epidemiologists who have dedicated their lifetime to a singular area where being told by the lay person that they knew nothing. I think this can be dangerous to our society: we all have a great amount of access, but few are delving deep enough into the resources (or lack the ability to even understand them) to being considered anything near an expert. Don’t get me wrong, the Internet is a wonderful tool, but I don’t think it makes us experts without sans time, discipline, and study.

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  2. Hey Brian,
    I really dug into your last question here. At first I was completely oblivious to my discomfort, but I took a moment to play out the scenerio in my head. When doing so, I imagined relinquishing control as the ‘expert’ and allowing the students to take on this role. My biggest area of discomfort was the idea of losing ‘control’ of the situation. And this honestly comes as no shock as it is an area of discomfort in a good portion of my life. But I know when I give up that control in the classroom, that I have to have trust that students understand their role and expectations and will fulfill their responsibility in a manner that doesn’t lead to me getting in trouble. But I think the risk is greatly outweighed by the benefits of letting students be the experts. As long as we have taught them the skill and tools they need to make well thought out choices and decisions, they have the wonder and knowledge to engage the class in content and instruction that is relevant and essential to them.

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  3. Hi Brian! Great post, thanks for your reflection. I’ve always appreciated ‘The Matrix’ as a parallel to Plato’s allegory of the cave. I would say that I have relinquished control of my expertise within the last five years of my teaching. I used to get so caught up in having to have all of the answers that I neglected the fact that students can smell the BS a mile away. We made movie trailers in class one time, and I had become semi-proficient in an app that facilitated this. And then I realized that there were about five other apps that worked better, and the kids already knew how to use them. So instead I said, “Can you show the class how that works?” It turned into a really cool, collaborative experience, and I realized that teaching doesn’t mean you have to know all of the answers. Sometimes, teaching is facilitating the learning that is already happening in your class, and that is the good stuff!

    I’d say I’m no longer uncomfortable with not being the expert. Students love that I am willing to learn with them!

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