According to this source, one of the the most frequent “how to” searches on YouTube in 2015 is “How to Tie a Tie”, which somehow led me to an obvious second question, “How do you tie an educational tie?” Okay, perhaps that wasn’t even in your list of the first fifty possible second questions. It is just that my brain is wired to look at almost any content or experience and ask about the implications for education, so this was the first thing that came to mind for me. I suppose it is a meaningless question until we define “educational tie.” Since I might be the first to use such a phrase, that gives me the honor of offering up a first possible definition. How about this?
education [ej-oo–key-shuh n]
educational tie [ej-oo–key-shuh-nl tahy]
1. the act of acquiring knowledge through a bond or connection between two or more people, groups, or resources.
Now we are back to familiar ground. How to tie an educational tie is just another way of asking how you can establish bonds or connections that help you acquire knowledge. It sounds a little like building a personal learning network to me. Perhaps this is a silly pathway to a familiar topic, but these sorts of exercises help me look at the familiar from a new vantage point, and this questions is starting to grow on me.
I remember the first tie that I wore. I was five or six years old and I think it was a bright-colored suit and a clip on tie for an Easter service. Putting that tie on was a breeze. When I got older and using clip-ons was a little less socially acceptable (my apologies to any adult readers wearing a clip-on at the moment), I finally had to figure out how to tie one for real.
What connection could I build or use to learn this? My dad was the obvious selection, so I asked for help and he showed me how to tie to time-tested double windsor, only I didn’t like how wide it looked. I was living in the 80s then, so skinny ties were the rage. I didn’t have a skinny tie, but I wanted the knot at least a little closer to skinny tie than what I thought of at the time as “middle-aged man tie.” I took what I learned about the double windsor, experimented and somehow ended up with a single windsor, which served me well for the next thirty years.
More recently I decided to try the bow tie. Plenty of people at work and in my network wear bow ties, but I didn’t turn to them. This time I leveraged a completely different type of connection. I went to YouTube and contributed to putting, “How to tie a tie?” in the list of top searches for 2015. After browsing through a dozen video tutorials, I settled on one that seemed easy enough, marked it as a favorite, and started practicing. Twenty minutes later I had a bow tie that I’d be comfortable wearing in public. For the next couple of weeks, I reviewed the video a couple of times and tied that same bow twice a day. I’m certainly no expert, and it is not second nature to me, but I suppose that I’m now qualified for any jobs that have, “knows how to tie a bow tie” in the list of required skills.
Reflecting on those early experiences leads me to think about the educational parallels. Early in life many of our connections with people, groups and resources are done for us. Those are our educational clip-ons. We learn from those people and resources shared with us. Somewhere along the line, we start to ask our own questions, and we often turn to trusted people in our lives to help us figure out how to do more things for ourselves. They give us guidances and mentor us, but we have it make it our own. We add our own style and personality to the task. We turn the double windsor into a single. Then, throughout the rest of our lives we build a growing number of connections, strategies for making use of existing connections, along with an ongoing search for new ones.
Learning in a connected world is all about helping people discover how to tie educational ties. It is about helping people discover the power, possibilities and connections that can help them learn; and being a good digital citizen is then also about being a possible connection and source of learning for others. If you are reading this article online, then you are connected to the largest peer to peer learning network in the history of the world. The number of connections available to us today are almost limitless. We have access to people, resources and groups far and near. Once you’ve learned the power of these connections and combine that with the confidence and skill to build new learning bonds and connections, you’ve become an active resident in the connected world.