Thomas and Brown’s (2011) new culture of learning resonates strongly with me as an educator, but even more so as a learner. Since 2008 when I first embarked on a “23 things” learning experience I have been exploring, engaging, following interests, connecting and learning using the fabulously vast resources of the online world. I came into this Masters course not so much for the specific qualification but to find structure and direction to focus my explorations. In the end I hope to find some new career options; whether or not I take them up is moot as I will be equally happy to find new direction within my existing career.
In all subjects so far (INF530, INF536, INF506) I have learned just as much with and from my fellow students as from exploring the course materials. Distance education has been an eye-opener and a fabulous surprise in how rich and rewarding the engagement has been. Many years ago I started on-campus Masters studies and never once felt anything like this level of engagement with other students. We sat in the same room for 2-3 hours a week and nothing more (or since). In this past year of study I’ve had many interactions with my fellow students which continue despite the subject/s being complete. My PLN continues to grow.
Just as it is for Allen (Thomas & Brown, p. 26), Google is the first port of call for many people faced with an error or problem these days and I’m certainly one of them. Whether it’s battling Apple’s Configurator for our class set of iPads, finding the best app for a purpose or trouble-shooting computer errors I can almost always find and answer or a forum where similar experiences are being discussed and learn from them.
Beyond a depressingly unsuccessful go at learning about Minecraft (at a full day workshop) and an uninspiring exploration of Second Life for INF506 I’ve not ventured into the world of massively multiplayer online games. Perhaps the closest I come to it is managing the family footy-tipping contest at Footytips. When we first started (about 7 years ago) my brother and his family were heading overseas for an exchange year and I thought it would be a good way to keep in touch. It was and is, but really it’s a very insignificant part of how we connect as a family.
It is clear to me that allowing students the freedom to explore their own interests and passions will facilitate the learning of concepts and skills beyond the topic – like Sam who learned valuable citizenship habits through the Scratch community (Thomas & Brown, p.21). In my school, as a teacher librarian, I promote project-based/challenge-based/inquiry-based learning by engaging with teachers and supporting them in myriad ways. We are a mixed-ability staff and some are much more ready to give up teaching to start enabling (as Thomas did (Thomas & Brown, p.25)) than others but there is recognition that old ways need to change and some commitment to giving it a go.