When I visualize a 'node', it's like a lump with wires sticking out of it. I understand the implication that we're each a dot on a matrix of lines of digital communication, but connected learning means more than that to me.
|image cc European Southern Observatory|
When I visualize a nexus, however, it's made of energy. It can do everything a node can do, but better. It's more efficient, more dynamic, and it's not limited by wires. Rather than thinking of myself as a cog in the machine, I want to be the energy that makes it run.
Out of curiosity, I checked the dictionary (Merriam-Webster):
node : a place where lines in a network cross or meet
nexus : a relationship or connection between people or things
That word, 'relationship', jumps out at me, grabs me by my shirt collar, and shouts, "you're more than an IP address!"
A node is sterile; a nexus is dirty.
A node is stationary; a nexus is always in motion.
A node is concrete; a nexus is abstract.
Thinking of myself as a nexus also appeals to me because networks are not limited to the digital domain. If a node connects lines in a network, a nexus connects networks and develops relationships among them.
Am I waxing semantic? Truly. However, I do believe that one thing all of the contemporary learning theories share is the importance of mindset. How we think of ourselves is critical to who we are in life on the unstable ground of knowledge in the 21st Century.
|photo by Jenny E. Ross|
When I visualize how I want students in my class to learn, I see them developing relationships and building their own connections of understanding. In agreement with Gerhard Fischer's Understanding, Fostering, and Supporting Cultures of Participation, I believe that the future is collaborative. Empathy and creativity are the two most important attitudes or habits-of-mind that citizens of the future need. My responsibility is to start the journey with them, like a polar bear plunging into the ocean for a long swim into the unknown. My old habits won't work. What I 'know' isn't relevant anymore. What is important is how I adapt.
We should not be nodes, passive, modular, static. We need to be nexuses. Active, independent, dynamic.