During INF532 I have had the opportunity to embrace networked learning which is defined as:
a process of developing and maintaining connections with people and information, and communicating in such a way so as to support one another’s learning
Dirckinck-Holmfield, Jones, & Lindström, 2009
My blog documents my attempt to implement network learning concepts in personal and work environments. Overcoming my natural tendency to not participate in social media, I have successfully engaged and learned with my peers. I still experience challenges in being a fully engaged networked learner but am embracing the benefits of connectivism. In this essay I will: outline my journey to understanding network literacy; discuss the tools I used during the semester; reflect on how I have developed as a connected learner; identify areas where I can further improve my skills; and discuss the implications connected learning will have in my job.
My goal in the initial weeks of the course was to understand and improve my network literacy as it is a key enabler of networked learning. I was enthralled by the possibilities provided by network literacy, particularly the concept,
I found it interesting that to make my networks a loop and not just a one-way process, it was vital that I shared content. This understanding helped to push me to increase the amount I share with my personal learning network (PLN) and to be more open and interested in the content being created and shared by others.
In my study of network literacy, the two components that really stood out to me were network privacy and security. The reason why I was so absorbed by these aspects was because I was reading this topic at a time when my personal data had been stolen in a hack of a large website and I was seeking answers as to how I could prevent this from happening again. My research formed the core of my learning artefact and helped me to identify tools that could assist in my journey to becoming a secure networked learner. There are many aspects to digital literacy, but I found that addressing my privacy and security gave me the confidence to build on other areas.
During the course I have trialled a number of different tools. For improved security, I embraced a password manager that helped me store and
Although there is considerable room for me to grow my design skills, the course helped me to be more creative in the resources I produce. This improvement was down to practicing with the tools and observing how my people within my PLN were using different formats to convey information.
My main medium for collaboration during the course was Twitter as it was where the majority of my PLN (including INF532 classmates) were active. For Chris’ artefact he interviewed Greg Miller who pointed out that you need to be active in the management of your PLN to ensure it meets your needs. I used this advice to ensure I regularly reviewed who I was following on Twitter and discovered that I could build the quality of my PLN by following people who were interacting with key members of my network. In previous university subjects I had used Twitter but not really engaged with it. In this class I have tweeted more and interacted more, this has built my confidence with the medium and given me an understanding of the benefits of the quick connections Twitter provides.
My engagement with Twitter was supplemented by informal meetings with fellow students and attending formal course meetings. Zoom was a great meetup tool that made group chats more engaging through its layout and use of video for all participants. Although a more asynchronous form of
collaboration, I found that commenting on blogs and tweets from other students helped to build rapport, which enabled more in-depth discussion at a later point. An additional network that provided invaluable feedback on the resources I created during this course were my students.
At the start of this semester, I asked why students did not form part of Couros’s networked teacher model. To test if this was the case for me, I shared with my students some of the resources that I created on this course. Their constructive feedback and discussion around the resources have confirmed that for me, my students are a valuable part of my learning network.
In addition to Twitter and my students, other important parts of my PLN were news sites and blogs. To keep up to date with all sources of information I had to use curation tools. The tools that made content consumption much easier were Feedly and Hootsuite. Using Feedly to curate a list of INF532 student blogs enabled me to quickly see any updates or insights that could help inform my understanding of readings and concepts. The benefits of learning from my peers gave me the context to fully appreciate the wonderful talk by Sugata Mitra on the benefits of peer learning.
To curate social media feeds I used Hootsuite, which allowed me to follow multiple hashtags and lists of people, all from one dashboard. Claire curated a Twitter list of all those involved in the course and shared the details, this was the impetus for me creating a feed of student blogs. I found sharing curated lists to be a great way to quickly build your PLN and although some tools require a paid subscription to make sharing possible, Julie kindly shared information about how I could use free curation tools, demonstrating the power of a PLN in solving technological questions.
The benefits I experienced from informal learning motivated me to attempt to provide more informal learning options at work. I specifically wanted to focus on a community of practice that I had previously created by had been suffering from a lack of
participation. My blog post helped to start a discussion within my PLN, which reassured me that I am not alone in struggling to create a community and that although there was no silver bullet, trialling different approaches may pay off.
This iterative approach took time but has stated to yield results, with changes in content leading to increased participation. The changes I introduced were informed by Merrill’s principles of instructional design, which had enabled me to reflect on whether I had been proactive in designing content for the community (Merrill, 2002).
A visualisation of Merrill’s principles. Credit shiftlearning.com
I realised that I had not been tailoring the content to the community and therefore often there was no reason with an individual to participate in the community. Therefore, I needed to change my approach to bring instructional design to all learning spaces, not just formal course design. Claire’s clever blog design is a great example of how to make information accessible to your intended audience through considering their needs, rather than simply displaying plain text and assuming that learners will be able to derive the important information. As I continue in my degree I need to consider how I can design my blog and my assessments to meet needs of the person consuming the information.
To improve my skills as a networked learner in a work context, I will need to increase collaboration with colleagues that have an interest in designing formal and informal learning opportunities. Although the courses we deliver at work are very specific and the tools provided aren’t great, if I can build a network among us, it is likely to give me a greater insight in to context specific approaches to help improve
learning outcomes. I will need to become more confident in advocating for the purchase of multimedia tools, to allow me to use learner-focused approaches such as digital storytelling (Visser, 2012). My approach will take time to pay off as the current trend seems to be for funds to be used to pay for external companies to create online training packages focused on ‘flexible learning’.
Flexible learning has a number of similarities to networked learning but does not necessarily have the same focus on supporting learning through personal connections (Todhunter, 2013). A consequence of this outsourced approach has been many of the packages do not promote networked learning, resulting in a culture where learning is seen as something you do by yourself. Palmer (2011) has identified that failing to include collaboration in the implementation of flexible learning is not uncommon but that it should be considered a vital component. I believe that by improving my skills as a network learner through greater collaboration with my colleagues, I will be better placed to create quality training that allows students to work together to construct their knowledge thereby promoting a culture of collaboration.
Outside of work, there are two things I will focus on to develop as a connected educator. Firstly, I will be more proactive in asking my PLN for advice or help. This interaction will be important if I am to utilise peer-learning to its full potential and benefit from local and global experiences. To achieve this, I can invest more time in finding likeminded individuals that are grappling with the same questions as me. Secondly, I will
need to further develop my multimedia skills and challenge myself to find new tools to convey information. As student expectations of content evolves, I will need to evolve my skills to meet those expectations. Future learning resources are likely to include content such as augmented reality and I will need to invest in the tools and training to be able to produce this type of content (Souto, 2014).
INF532 has built my understanding of networked learning through the practical experience of establishing a PLN – giving me first-hand experience of why peer learning is such a powerful pedagogical approach. I found that the value of networked learning was enhanced when I could provide curated content to my network as it increased my value within the network. To fully embrace the benefits of networked learning I will need to be more proactive in building a work-based learning networked and to be more confident in reaching out to people within my PLN. Overall, INF532 has given me the skills to embrace the challenge of being a networked learner.
Dirckinck-Holmfield, L., Jones, C., & Lindström, B. (2009). Analysing networked learning practices in higher education and continuing professional development. Sense Publishers.
Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology, Research and Development; New York, 50(3), 43.
Palmer, S. (2011). The lived experience of flexible education: Theory, policy and practice. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 8(3), 1–16.
Pegrum, M. (2010). ‘I Link, Therefore I Am’: Network Literacy as a Core Digital Literacy. E-Learning and Digital Media, 7(4), 346–354. https://doi.org/10.2304/elea.2010.7.4.346
Souto, V. T. (2014). A Framework for Designing Interactive Digital Learning Environments for Young People. In K. Blashki & P. Isaias (Eds.), Emerging Research and Trends in Interactivity and the Human-Computer Interface: IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-4666-4623-0
Todhunter, B. (2013). LOL — limitations of online learning — are we selling the open and distance education message short? Distance Education, 34(2), 232–252. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2013.802402
Visser, J. (2012, October 11). Digital storytelling: How to tell a story that stands out in the… Retrieved 18 August 2018, from https://themuseumofthefuture.com/2012/10/11/digital-storytelling-how-to-tell-a-story-that-stands-out-in-the-digital-age/
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