Engagement, responsibility and trust

A few weeks ago I was on a panel for a Connected Learning webinar with Howard Rheingold:  Social Media and Peer Learning: From Mediated Pedagogy to Peeragogy.

Webinar archive here…

Early on, Howard talked about the idea that responsibility and trust work together. This is something I’ve been saying for a while. Here’s a graphic that I frequently use in my talks.

empowerment cycle
Feel free to use — with credit!

All these things are interrelated. I think we completely miss the boat when we talk about Digital Citizenship. Mostly it’s about rules and things students shouldn’t do. The word citizenship is such a good clue – it’s about belonging to something bigger than yourself. Engagement is part of that.

You often hear people talk about how technology is so “engaging” for kids. But that misses the point. It’s not the technology that’s engaging, it’s the opportunity to use technology to create something that is valued by the community and by yourself. Yes, a new device can be entertaining for a while, but when the novelty value wears off, what are you left with?

Engagement is not a goal, it’s an outcome of students (or anyone) doing meaningful work. Meaningful to themselves AND to the community they are in. Meaningful because someone trusted them to do something good and they shouldered the responsibility. Engagement is not something you DO to kids or you GIVE kids, it’s the outcome of this cycle of experiences.

Howard was talking about giving students in graduate school the responsibility to be co-creators of learning, the trust that that engenders, and the engagement and empowerment that ensues.

I think this can (and should) happen in K-12 education as well.


9 Replies to “Engagement, responsibility and trust”

  1. Appreciated the post and the comment about “engagement” as process, not as end product as well as the differentiation betwen technology as means with which to engage, and subject of engagement. I’m sure I’ve been free and easy with the “e” word and will now strive for greater precision.

  2. I hear this more and more with the iPad. One sup. I was talking to last night just marveled at how engaged students had become since giving them iPads. I wonder how much of that is just the easy access, portability factor to consume content which, I wonder, may or may not “wear off.” When I pressed him on constructing things with the iPad, I didn’t get as far, but I’d did get the sense that students were taking more ownership over their learning. I want to dig more deeply into it with him, but I think in most cases, I agree that we’re missing the boat on the engagement thing.

  3. The iPad is certainly handy for some things. And yes, there are some aspects of the iPad that promote ownership, especially if schools actually set them up as the personal devices they are designed to be.

    I heard a lot of the same talk a few years ago when I went to schools who would proudly point to the IWBs and say, “see? the kids are all so engaged, it’s a real digital revolution!” And yes, superficially, the kids were standing up, or using the IWB, but when you looked at what they were doing, they were dragging words to fill in “interactive” worksheets, playing Jeopardy, or just doing worked out example problems for the rest of the class.

    It’s easy to mistake the sizzle for the steak, especially when you’ve just paid a lot of money for the steak and want to feel you did the right thing.

  4. I think there’s much truth in what you say and that this resonates in all classrooms from kindergarten upwards.

    Technology can be engaging and inspiring, but is not always conducive to community. The kind of communities shared learning engenders are powerful motivational bodies, but I believe this is more so when the conversation is face to face and technology is integrated into that conversation. Where technology is the main medium of communication, learning communities can be dispersed, fragmented and slow.

    As you say, technology can be an attrative seduction but ultimately be little more than a fancy presentational tool, which if not used carefully, reduces rather than enhances engagement.

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