Navigating and Weaving

George Siemens spoke to our EC&I 831 class last week about sensemaking and wayfinding. In a world where the internet has fragmented information we seek ways to weave and connect the pieces together for coherence and to navigate our way through the “spatial component of knowledge”.

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Siemens discussed the tendency for traditional, formal education to present information in prepackaged, coherent wholes and learners basically consume what they are given. I can relate wholeheartedly as this was predominantly the philosophy of education when I went to school. I remember the high level of structure, the compartmentalized concepts and the pre-established levels of learning. We were grouped in terms of what we could consume and when it would be delivered. The teacher held the answers and I waited to receive them. Now don’t get me wrong I had many teachers who balked this trend, and as a learner in their classes I suddenly felt awake, tuned in and present. I was actively involved in my own learning! To be encouraged to grapple and struggle with unknowns and get messy in the learning was challenging and at times uncomfortable. It takes work and effort when you are really learning and really engaging in the process but it is worth it all. These experiences taught me that learning is a marathon not a sprint. It feels far better to find the way than to be placed on the finish line.
Sensemaking and wayfinding does not happen in a vacuum. I think there must be an environment that facilitates it and a community to support it. My Master’s courses are an excellent example of an environment that encourages me to weave together so many pieces into a whole that is meaningful and relevant to me. Although the meaning is mine and I will have my own interpretation of the connections, I could not navigate this journey without support. I thought I would try MindMeister, a online interactive mind mapping tool, to organize my thoughts around community and its role in sensemaking and wayfinding. Sadly and yet again, I cannot embed the mind map (as with Glogster) into my blog post. It seems that in order to embed many of these tools you are required you to have a blog. I apologize that to see my mind map you will have to link outside of this blog. Blogging and the interaction of online tools are some of the concepts I am trying to weave together into some coherent whole!
Sensemaking and wayfinding are personal even though they are socially and communally enabled. ~George Siemens
I am grateful that I had teachers who rejected the idea that we were vessels to be filled, who got excited by the discovery as much as their students did, and who taught outside the box. I guess in a way they were the first community to support me in sensemaking and wayfinding. Their approaches to learning taught me the value of being resilient, resourceful, connected and flexible as a learner. They inspired my love of learning and my passion for becoming a teacher. Project PLN has put a call out for submissions for their November issue. The topic is #SchoolDidAGoodThing. I gave myself a challenge a few posts ago to contribute and this morning I submitted a story (yeah!) about teachers who made a difference for me. I encourage you to do the same. It feels great to be a part of a community that is sharing positive stories about education during a time when we hear so much about all that is wrong. I think the power for change lies in the people making a positive impact…that is the energy that will move us forward.
If you decide to submit a story to November’s Project PLN please let me know. I would also love to hear what else you would add to the mind map about communities and their impact on sensemaking and wayfinding.

8 thoughts on “Navigating and Weaving

  1. The resistance to the prepackaged whole, the fragmentation, is very deliberate in this class (if you haven’t noticed already). Not only are the tools presented as ‘small tools loosely joined’, the content is not presented as a deliberate scope and sequence. My hope, however, is that getting similar messages across various presentation, but through different lenses, allows for the questioning of our dominant educational structures. It seems that you are getting a sense of how this works. 🙂

    • Is the prepackaged whole necessarily a bad thing if it becomes the catalyst that spawns deeper thinking processes? I heard Dr. Dennis Shirley speak last night ( and he referenced his teacher who inspired reading in the young Dr. Shirley. When queried about the book and its meaning, he had a cursory understanding from the idea presented in the book. His teacher then proceeded to use this prepackaged knowledge and open the vault to even deeper levels of knowledge which spurred this young man on to follow the rabbit hole of knowledge and see how far it would take him. –I am just sayin’

      • I think even though we gain understanding and knowledge from books, for example, we process and understand and critique through our own lens so although it may be prepackaged in the sense it is contained in one place and represents one or a few perspectives we are free to take it from there. By “open(ing) the vault to deeper levels” this teacher facilitated Dr. Shirley to construct his own meaning from the ” book knowledge”. A great example! Thanks for taking the time to comment, Allan!

    • Thank you for your comments, Alec! The themes are really coming through as we layer on each week of this course. It is challenging to create our own pathways and construct our own understandings. This challenge is what makes the learning so engaging and so dynamic.

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  3. I have found myself using the words sense making and wayfinding in many of my converstations since George’s presentation. The words just resonate with me and create a mental map in my mind of not only learning but life in general. It is also so reassuring to know that we have had those types of teachers that reject the vessel filling notion of teaching and hopefully throughour own sense making and wayfinding we can pass that on to our own students. I am sure that there are former students of yours who are thankful to have had you for a teacher.

    • Thanks so much, Raquel! Those words George Siemens shared really helped me too. I now am looking at how I sort out all of this information, use the tools and interact with people in terms of sensemaking and wayfinding. I love it when something really gels and creates a connection like this. Glad you feel it too! Thank you for commenting!

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