It is all connected!

I encountered INF537 Digital Futures Colloquium, near the end of my MEd KN & DI journey. It promised the opportunity to consider the impact of knowledge networks, of collaboration and innovation in digital cultures of learning and what this can mean for my professional development and practice.

From the start I was confronted by a repeating truth: in collaborative digital environments we learn with and from one another – whether it be with and from this cohort, our subject coordinator, industry experts, exemplary practitioners or thought leaders – as I wrote in my introductory blog post for this module (Wocke, 2019a). I involuntarily thought back to what some of the thought leaders and exemplary practitioners I came across had to say about a digital culture of learning:

  • Downes (2006) said knowledge consists of the network of connections formed from experience and interaction with a knowing community.
  • Brown (2000) said the Internet is not only an informational and social resource but a learning medium where understandings are socially constructed and shared.
  • Rheingold (2011) said we co-construct our learning in collaborative learning communities online.
  • Siemens (2014) said networked learning happens through external social spaces, where social systems and technology systems are now part of human knowledge.

It is, it seems, all about collaboratively learning in a connected knowing community. It was time to bring my learning into spaces where it can be socially constructed and shared. When I came across the term “outward-facing learning” in Module 1, it resonated immediately.  I was determined to develop as a participatory learner and share my thoughts as a connected learner during this module:

I started off by participating in every single discussion on the INF532 Padlet board and Flipgrid. When the Flipgrid slot was too short to share my view on communities of practice, I created and published my first podcast (inserted below).

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This I shared in a blog post (Wocke, 2019b) and via Twitter (Wocke, 2019c). I was quite surprised when two members of the cohort actually listened and commented – I AM part of a community of collaborative learners, it seems!

During my research for the paper on Digital Scholarship, which I wrote about in A revolution by digital scholars (Wocke, 2019d), I realized that open access has developed further than just free and unrestricted access to research, it’s also about open data, transparency in peer review and an open approach to science assessment (“Openness Inspires Innovation”, n.d.). This convinced me to make this part of my practice and bring my personal research for the INF537 research paper into the open. I included in my project proposal links to my working data gathering documents, effectively giving open access to the project as it developed (see below).Project porposal for INF537 Assessment 3

Since scholars like Weller (2012) proclaims that blogging sits at the heart of being a modern academic and that newly constructed knowledge can be shared in so many new formats and media in the digital domain, I decided to further turn my learning “outward-facing” through blogging. I produced the narrative part of the data gathered for the INF537 research project into a series of  blogposts, that I called August Online, thereby further developing my reflective practice (Wocke, 2019e).

I have to be honest that not everything worked according to plan. In a post called Modelling Digital Scholarship (Wocke, 2019f), I proudly announced my intent to be authentic in making my learning “open”, by blogging out loud as I investigate digital scholarship and by posting a “draft” of my paper for my cohort members to comment on – REALLY practicing how I see knowledge creation developing in the digital era. Sadly, two factors kept me from reaching this goal: firstly, time constraints did not allow me to complete a draft in time for comments, and secondly, this (admittedly small) cohort proved on the whole to be disappointingly unresponsive and un-collaborative. None the less, all of this proved to be part of the learning curve, and at the end of this module I am not surprised to look back on my learning and find “It is all connected!


Brown, J. S. (2000). Growing up digital: How the web changes work, education, and the ways people learn. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 32(2), 11-20. Retrieved from

Downes, S. (2006). Learning networks and connective knowledge. In Collective intelligence and elearning.

Openness inspires innovation. (n.d.). Retrieved August 18, 2019, from PLOS website:

Rheingold, H. (2011, July 22). Learning reimagined: Participatory, peer, global, online [Blog post]. Retrieved from Connected Learning Alliance Blog:

USC: Learning and Teaching. (2014, January 21). Overview of connectivism – Dr George Siemens [Video file]. Retrieved from

Weller, M. (2012, April 29). The virtues of blogging as scholarly activity [Blog post]. Retrieved from The Chronicle of Higher Education website:

Wocke, G. (2019a, July 15). INF537 digital futures colloquium – A new journey [Blog post]. Retrieved from Gretha Reflecting website:

Wocke, G. (2019f, July 29). Modelling digital scholarship [Blog post]. Retrieved from Gretha Reflecting website:

Wocke, G. (2019b, August 3). Communities of practice: An audio reflection [Blog post]. Retrieved from Gretha Reflecting website:

Wocke, G. (2019c, August 3). #INF537: My reflection on Communities of Practice, where I applied Wenger’s definition to a Facebook group for school librarians in my PLN, got too long for flipgrid and I posted a podcast on my blog [Tweet]. Retrieved from

Wocke, G. (2019e, August 4). Why this? [Blog post]. Retrieved from August Online website:

Wocke, G. (2019d, September 5). A revolution by digital scholars [Blog post]. Retrieved from Gretha Reflecting website:

Digital Visitors and Residents – revising

In a 2011-2013 joint project of Oxford University and OCLC Research, funded by JISC, the researchers (primarily David White, Alison La Cornu and Donna M. Lancos) set out to gain a deeper understanding of:

  • what motivates users to engage with specific aspects of the information environment in a given context;
  • understanding the complex context that surrounds individual engagement with digital resources, spaces and tools;
  • how they acquire information and why they make the choices they do (JISC Guide, p.1-2).

During the project the V&R continuum was developed to map individual and group engagement with digital technology for learning in an attempt to develop better approaches to and understanding of online behaviour.

Visitors use the Internet as a tool to accomplish a task or have a “need” to be find information or use a tool. They do not set out to leave a trace – entering and exiting without actively leaving a trace of their presence or use and not contributing.

Resident users maintain an online persona, and “live” a part of their lives online, often through contributions to social media networks, blogs and uploading images and other digital artefacts. “The web has become a crucial aspect of how they present themselves and how they remain part of networks of friends or colleagues.” (Tallblog).

Visitor and Resident characterisations represent two extremes on a spectrum/continuum of online behaviour. The continuum provides a simplistic way to describe a wide range of online engagements as well as a useful way to understand motivations in different contexts. When this linear continuum is plotted on a two-axis system with another variable – for example professional and personal use – the schematic mapping provides insight into a user’s online engagement.

The initial ideas were put forward in a post on the TALL blog about Online Education at Oxford and was reported to the academic community in an article in First Monday.

Here are links to other sources relevant to the project:

In their research quantitative evaluation tools such as surveys and compiled statistics were used but found to create a “narrow picture of performance”. They then further employed qualitative research methods (diaries and interviews) to gain insights into the “how” and “why” of user engagement with technology. For the INF537 research project I plan to investigate another angle: by using autoethnography methods, I will add a personal touch when using the V&R framework to gather and analyse data and map my online behaviour. Through this investigation I hope to gain insight into how and why and my online behaviour has changed during the two years of my Med KN&DI studies. I predict a shift towards the Resident behaviour pattern and believe that this will be explainable in terms of my increased understanding of and commitment to connected open learning practices.

I first blogged about Visitors or Residents in an online world in June 2017 and undertook to return to this at a later date – as promised, I am back now…

Communities of Practice – an audio reflection

As part of Module 2 of INF537 we are invited to think about Communities of Practice (CoP)…. Here I share my “thoughts and experiences with ‘Communities of practice’ – theory and real life observations” in a podcast (since the 1:30 on flipgrid was way to short).

Communities of practice must be one of the oldest forms of social learning around. Etienne Wenger and his co-authors and associates provide us with a useful definition and framework with which to describe and investigate CoPs. In the podcast embedded below, I discuss my understanding of this form of social learning and investigate the extent to which a Facebook group for school librarians: Int’l Library Connection functions as a CoP.

Listen to my reflection here… This is my first attempt at creating a podcast, part of my personal challenge during INF537 to be a participatory learner and share my thoughts as a connected learner.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


Reflecting on INF506


image by geralt, downloaded from pixabay

image by geralt, downloaded from pixabay

Let me start this reflection with a very honest disclosure: I chose INF506 as the 6th module in my MEd studies because I was looking for a potentially “easy” module at an extremely busy time, both personally and professionally. After all, I have had an (evolving) presence on Facebook for the last 12 years, have been tweeting (sparsely) since 2012, have been blogging (first reluctantly and now enthusiastically) since the start of my studies in 2017, am presenting myself (admittedly half-heartedly) on LinkedIn, had my (dormant) Instagram account hacked, etc. etc. “I know about social media, I thought. To be fair to myself, I at least I had a specific goal, as I wrote in my first blogpost, namely to explore development of a social media presence for our school library (Wocke, 2019c). What I did NOT anticipate, however, was for this subject to fundamentally and conceptually bring together so much of what I have already learnt during the past two years. It is as if the penny finally dropped, let me explain…


I used to see social networking as the use of Internet-based social media platforms to connect with people with whom I have something in common (Nations, 2019a). On these platforms I not only connect, but create and publish digital content, share and disseminate information and collaborate in groups. This was my understanding before INF506, as I used Facebook to connect with other teacher librarians through Facebook groups. During research for the charity project, however, I learnt that social network theory emphasises the fact that the links (ties) between members of social networks are of greater importance than the attributes of the members (nodes) of the network. This social capital is the integral value derived from the relationships among members of a social network and is gained through the strong ties AND the weak ties in the network (Wade, 2014; Utz & Muscanell, 2015, p. 421). This concept was clearly illustrated to me through the INF506 201930 Facebook group: In a comment to my post, a member of our cohort – not known to me and therefor a weak tie – introduced me to, a grassroots leadership network of international school teacher librarians, which has now become an important part of my personal learning network – therefor a strong tie. This insight has positively changed my view of an extended presence on a platform such as LinkedIn, of the importance of forming and utilising weak ties AND of being a weak tie in someone else’s network. It is vital for individuals and organisations to cultivate and maintain accurate online identities and networks to be successful participants in the connected Information Society. Similarly, my perception of “knowledge creation and “learning” in the Digital Era has also undergone significant conceptual changes during my INF506 studies.


Brown (2000) predicted the development of a social, online learning ecology comprising of a vast number of authors, virtual communities of interest groups, that can develop into a “powerful fabric for learning” (p. 19). He further described learning in situ, or situated learning, where learning happens socially, through participation and collective knowledge creation and the WWW becomes “not only an informational and social source but a learning medium” (p. 14). This incredibly powerful insight from 2000 already, is illustrated in Siemens’s anecdote (see below), where he explains that through his early attempts at blogging that he first realised that learning is a network forming process; that the social systems and technology systems that are part of human knowledge have become part of our capacity to know (USC: Learning and Teaching, 2014). His partner in formulating Connectivism as learning theory, Downes, states that knowledge consists of the network of connections formed from experience and interactions with a knowing community (Downes, 2010). Wow. It is during my INF506 studies that all these theories started to make sense. We ALL learn in the social networked environment. Learning – as an action – is changing, becoming increasingly less isolated and more social as a result of our participation in social networks. This is incredibly important for us as educators to keep in mind. The distinction between formal and informal learning is disappearing in this connected environment and MOOCs provide affordable and flexible ways to learn collaboratively in a social networking environment (MOOC, n.d.). Our students learn as much from watching YouTube videos as they do from being in our classes. Learning can increasingly happen on-demand and is more self-directed, because of the ubiquitous nature of information technology. Ohler (2010), explains that this ubiquity has changed our relationship with time and space and created an infrastructure that surrounds us in a continuous, “familiar stream of experience” (p. 78), that we find difficult to unplug from (p. 85). This technology is now so embedded in our environment that it is becoming invisible to us (p. 91).

Social networking is not a passing fad of personal egocentric feeds on Facebook and Instagram, it is a very fundamental part of how we now find information and learn. Conole (2011) argues that to make effective use of the affordances of open, social and participatory media and the networked information environment of the WWW, learners and teachers need the necessary digital skills, guidance and support (p. 305). As teacher librarian in the library of a secondary school, I see this support, as well as leadership in terms of information seeking and knowledge creation, as part of my responsibility and mission. We have easy and free access to Web 2.0 tools, such as blogs and wikis, but because of issues surrounding data and identity security and safety we need to create and choose safe environments for our students in which to develop the necessary digital skills needed to harness the stream of new technologies that keep appearing and create their digital identities (pp. 306-307).  Teacher librarians need to take a leading role in educating students and teachers about intellectual property, academic honesty, copyright and creative commons licenses, as teacher librarians we also need to ensure that our school libraries, its resources and services facilitate collaborative and creative learning. Hirsch’s (2013) advice (which I have blogged about here): to create physical and virtual environments that foster and encourage learning, mentoring, collaborating, creativity and knowledge creating (p. 7); that facilitate and support the use of new technologies (p. 13); that seek ways to reach out and deliver service into the community (p. 8), will support learning in the connected environment.

The changes in academic discourse is the last fundamental insight that I would like to reflect on, because it is important for me as a student, social networker and information professional, but also for our teachers, as life-long learners, and our students who are preparing for further academic study. The new open, social and participatory media clearly have potential to radically transform teaching and learning, where “open” refers to the practice of sharing content as a default (Conole, 2011, p. 205). Social networking facilitates many ways to connect, communicate, collaborate and learn with and from an “open” network of peers, teachers, mentors and resources. Digital scholarship is emerging as an increasingly important way for academics to disseminate their teaching, learning and research (p. 307).  The social networking environment enables this to happen in an “open” way. As librarians we need to advocate for and educate about the virtues and vices of important initiatives such as the Open Access Movement and Open Educational Resources (Eisen, 2105; Beall, 2015; “Open Access,” n.d.; “Open Educational,” n.d.).

Having listed my main conceptual and theoretical insights from this module does not really leave me room to reflect on practical learning. My personal practice with and evaluation of social media tools did not change much during these months. I did, however, learn a lot about how incredibly well charities use social media. I also learnt how important it is to choose social media platforms well, according to your audience and purpose, and to tailor content for the particular market and audience. I came across enterprise social networks for the first time and do NOT understand why we as a school “make do” with a one-way communication such as email, when Yammer & company is around.

I thought that through INF506 I would learn how to create an Instagram account for our school library. This sadly did not happen, in part due to the cancellation of the social media project, in part because my creation of a social media strategy for our school library did not entirely convince me of its purpose that (Wocke, 2019c). My gain as a social networker and information professional, in terms of a much stronger conceptual understanding of the information dissemination, knowledge creation and of learning in our social networking world makes up for this in spades.


Beall, J. (2015, May/June). What the Open-Access Movement doesn’t want you to know. Academe. Retrieved from

Brookes, M. (2016, August 15). Connectivism – A learning theory for the digital age [Video file]. Retrieved from

Brown, J. S. (2000). Growing up digital: How the web changes work, education, and the ways people learn. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 32(2), 11-20.

Conole, G. (2011). Designing for learning in an open world. New York: Springer.

Downes, S. (2010). Learning Networks and Connective Knowledge. In H. H. Yang & S. C.-Y. Yuen (Eds.), Collective intelligence and e-learning 2.0: Implications of web-based communities and networking.

Eisen, M. (n.d.). Emerging Visions for Access in the Twenty-first Century Library: Vol. 119. The Open Access Movement in scholarly communication. Retrieved from Council on Library and Information Resources website:

Hirsh, S. (2013, October). The global transformation of libraries, LIS education, and LIS professionals. Paper presented at Library 2.013 Worldwide Virtual Conference, San Jose, CA, USA. Retrieved from

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 9(3), 1-13. Retrieved from

MOOC. (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2019, from

Nations, D. (2019, May 23). What is social networking? Retrieved May 31, 2019, from

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press.

Open access movement. (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2019, from Science Direct website:

Open educational resources. (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2019, from UNESCO website:

USC: Learning and Teaching. (2014, January 21). Overview of connectivism – Dr George Siemens [Video file]. Retrieved from

Utz, S., & Muscanell, N. (2015). Social media and social capital: Introduction to the special issue. Societies, (5), 420-424.

Wade, M. (2014, December 4). Social network theory. Retrieved May 31, 2019, from Theories Used in IS Research Wiki website:

Wocke, G. (2019a, May 14). How our school library can do social [Blog post]. Retrieved from Gretha Reflecting website:

Wocke, G. (2019b, May 16). Is it a dinosaur, or is it a … library? [Blog post]. Retrieved from Gretha Reflecting website:

Wocke, G. (2019c, February 27). Learning about social media [Blog post]. Retrieved from Gretha Reflecting website:

Learning about Social Networking

image by geralt, downloaded from pixabay

Assessment item 1: OLJ creation and first entryDefine social networking in your own words

a.) Define Social Networking in your own words:

Social networking is the use of online platforms to connect and communicate with other users with a common interest.

b.) List what social networking technologies and sites you already use:

Social networking and social media form an important part of how I stay informed and grow as a school librarian. My use of Facebook has moved from purely personal use, to primarily conversations with groups of school librarians and international educators. These conversations are enriching, inspiring and where I go if I need input and advice.  Twitter is an easy way to learn from and interact with the “great” educators of our day! Facebook and Twitter are the social networks where I interact with my Personal Learning Network.

I use Pinterest to keep inspired and engaged in personal interests and hobbies. WhatsApp is my preferred tool to keep in contact with family and friends, near and far. Goodreads provides me with a diverse community of readers to support my personal and professional reading as well as that of our school library. I plan to explore Instagram during this module.

I was a very reluctant blogger, forced to start blogging for my studies, but my CSU ThinkSpace blog, Gretha Reflecting, has been one of the most valuable learning experiences this far in my Masters’ studies. It is also the only social networking interaction that requires me to produce and contribute to social media and not only to consume.

c.) Describe what you expect to learn from INF506:

The connected world of the Internet has enabled me to connect and network with others and to access almost any information anywhere, it has changed when, where and how I learn. I believe in connected learning and in the role libraries can play to facilitate authentic, student-centred learning experiences and self-directed learning. Social networking is a crucial component needed to make this happen. I hope that this module will provide me with the knowledge and opportunities to develop the skills needed to develop this aspect of our library’s services.


About Connected Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved November 3, 2018, from Connected Learning Alliance website:

About Goodreads. (n.d.). Retrieved November 3, 2018, from Goodreads website:

Gil, P. (2018, February 5). What is Twitter and how does it work? Retrieved November 3, 2018, from Lifewire website:

Moreau, E. (2018, September 5). What is Instagram, anyway? Retrieved November 3, 2018, from Lifewire website:

Moreau, E. (2018, September 10). What is Pinterest? Retrieved November 3, 2018, from Lifewire website:

Morris, K. (2013, January 5). 10 reasons every educator should start blogging. Retrieved November 3, 2018, from The Edublogger website:

Rouse, M. (2013, June). WhatsApp. Retrieved November 3, 2018, from SearchMobileComputing website:

Social networking. (n.d.). Retrieved November 3, 2018, from TechTerms website:

What is a personal learning network? (n.d.). Retrieved November 3, 2018, from Teachthought website:

What is Facebook? (n.d.). Retrieved November 3, 2018, from Lifewire website:

Wocke, G. (n.d.). Learning about social networking [Blog post]. Retrieved from Gretha Reflecting website:

The Digital Learning Environment

The disruptive nature of current technological advances is forcing us to re-evaluate, and in many cases re-design, re-invent or at least adapt many aspects of our society – the learning environment is no exception. A learning environment is no longer a classroom where students quietly sit, all facing forward, while the teacher delivers content from a printed textbook (Graetz, 2006).

A digital learning environment (DLE) is an environment where learning is facilitated and supported through the affordances of digital technology. The DLE consists of all resources: hardware, software and educational content, that the learner and teacher employ to facilitate learning. Because the DLE is “digital”, connected and networked, it is not bound by time or space. Learning can happen 24/7/365 and outside of the physical restrictions and constraints of traditional learning environments, just-in-time and on-demand. Learning can not only take place when we want, but where we want, with and from whom we want and about what we want (Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011, p. 2). Learning in DLEs are not restricted to the group of students in a class but can naturally extend to include experts and communities of interest and practice, allowing for more authentic, “situated” or context-dependent learning experiences (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989, p. 39).

photo by rawpixel, dowloaded from pixabay

Digital learning environments include, but are not exclusive to, learning management systems (LMS) or virtual learning environments (VLE).  These environments should be intentionally designed, allowing for personalised, empowering, learner-centred and learner-directed learning (Veletsianos, 2016, pp. 246-7). DLE should make the most of Web 2.0, media and tools, which are open, social and participatory –  allowing learning through communication, collaboration, co-creating and sharing of knowledge (Conole, 2013, p. 47). The DLE is hyper-connected and allows for learning that is dynamic and fluid, a blend of formal, informal, experiential, problem-based and inquiry learning.

The existence of a DLE does not guarantee maximisation of learning. Intentional steps must be put into place to ensure that students and teachers develop the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century, as well as the behaviour and attitudes needed to learn and socialise safely, ethically and effectively in these environments.

The DLE in our school is complex, but none the less reasonably effective, focussed on supporting the teaching and the learning of our students in a collaborative and transparent environment. We use Managebac as learning management system, a good choice – from an administrative point of view, since it is tailor-made for our IB school. Managebac creates a transparent online DLE where teachers, students and parents have – at all-time – a transparent overview of curriculum, learning objectives, learning tasks and assessments. Much of the active learning activities take place in the Google Suite environment, where tools are integrated, and collaboration is easily facilitated and monitored through sharing of digital artefacts. Students have access to Managebac and the Google environment at all times, at school, home and elsewhere, and can easily share access to their work with peers, teachers and parents. Other Web 2.0 tools are often used for specific learning activities. In my grade 6 Digital X (technology and design-based course) , for example, students are experimenting with free online tools to create audio recordings (Twistedwave), video recordings (WeVideo) and photo manipulation software (Photopea). The artefacts that students create are showcased in an ePortfolio, which is a Google slide presentation. Assignments, grades and assessment comments for tasks in the ePortfolio is published on Managebac.

Our course notes describe a DLE as “the tools, skills, standards, attitudes and habits for learning while using technology and accessing digital resources” (Lindsay & O’Connell, 2018). All of those elements are important in creating a successful learning environment, but the skilful creation of authentic and challenging learning opportunities by the teacher, is needed to ensure that our students thrive and grow.


Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42. Retrieved from JSTOR database.

Conole, G. (2013). Designing for learning in an open world. New York, NY: Springer.

Graetz, K. A. (2006). The psychology of learning environments. In D. G. Oblinger (Ed.), Learning spaces. Retrieved from

Lindsay, J., & O’Connell, J. (2018). Topic 1.0: Introduction to the digital learning environment. Retrieved March 3, 2018, from ETL 523: Digital citizenship in schools website:

Richardson, W., & Mancabelli, R. (2011). Personal learning networks: Using the power of connections to transform education. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Veletsianos, G. (2016). Digital learning environments. In N. Rushby & D. Surry (Eds.), Handbook of learning technologies (pp. 242-260). Retrieved from

Knowledge changed, so must I

“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”

Albert Einstein (attributed)


My understanding of knowledge is being severely challenged and hopefully adjusted…

When I started school (half a century ago!), students were perceived to be “learning” if the class was quiet – everyone sat at their own desks, with textbook and notebook, while the teacher imparted his wisdom to the group or individual students, walking up and down between neatly arranged rows of desks. Knowledge came from teachers and books…

Now it seems that Brown, Collins and Duguid (1989) have understood all along that knowledge has little worth in isolation, by itself. They reason that activity and situations are integral to cognition and learning. Learning that is embedded in activity and that makes deliberate use of social and physical contexts facilitate understanding and cognition (p. 32).

Fenwick and Edwards (2010) argue that knowing is “situated, embodied and distributed” (p. 24). Knowing cannot be separated from doing, is actively bound to social, cultural and physical contexts, is specific to a particular situation, has a tangible visible form, is not isolated, but distributed –  shared, spread over an area!

I now understand that an object of knowledge “is held together by a network of connections that must be continually performed to make knowledge visible and alive” (Fenwick & Edwards, 2010, p. 24). I think this is what Siemens (2006) calls “connective knowledge” (p. 3). Siemens actually makes me feel better about my misconceptions, he says knowledge has changed – from categorisation and hierarchies, to networks and ecologies. He reasons that our educational spaces and structures need to change accordingly (p. v).

How do we do this? How do I do this in our middle school library?

Siemens suggests we do this in the structures we create to hold our knowledge, the spaces where we dialogue about and enact our knowledge, and the tools we use to disseminate this knowledge (p. 4). There is so much more to learn, but on this Monday morning I will go forth and facilitate knowledge creation and dissemination in a structure (our library with its resources), and space (physical and virtually available) with appropriate tools available, where students can have dialogue, create and share knowledge.




Albert Einstein Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2017, from Web site:

Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational researcher18(1), 32-42.

Fenwick, T., & Edwards, R. (2010). Actor-network theory in education. Routledge.

Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing knowledge. Lulu. com.





Becoming a Connected Educator

Through modern technology we live in an information rich and connected world, where we have constant and immediate access to information sources, people and their knowledge. Teaching and learning happen in this connected world and should be augmented by this connected information environment.

The connected educator is firstly a connected learner, who brings what she (or he) learns into the classroom (Nussbaum-Beach & Hall, 2012, p.18):

  • She actively manages and directs her personalised learning journey, reflectively planning formal and informal learning experiences to advance her professional and personal interests.
  • She leverages the affordances of technology to manage the flow of interactions with people and information sources through careful curation.
  • She utilises the personal, social and participatory nature of new media formats and tools) to connect and with learning communities, to learn from and with (Lindsay, 2016, p.11). Lucier views this as a continuum of Seven degrees of connectedness on which a learner progresses as a personal learning network (PLN) is actively cultivated and nurtured. Rheingold and Weeks (2012, p.120) similarly refer to Mayfield’s 11 steps of the Power Law of Participation.
  • She deliberately manages and develops her online presence, identity and footprint.

The connected educator understands that education is about learning – not teaching, and that while learning can be linear and solitary, it is also social and collaborative – especially in the connected world. She models and practices connected, lifelong learning. The connected educator crafts authentic learning experiences by utilising her network to open the walls of her classroom, by sharing relevant learning resources, and by facilitating connection-making (Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011, p.61-62). By demonstrating the importance of being a connected learner she encourages her students to develop their own PLNs. She encourages connected learning to happen inside and outside the classroom, through participation and interactions: by facilitating user-generated content, peer-critique, collective aggregation and community formation by her students (Conole, 2010, pp. 50-51.)

She understands that good digital citizenship requires responsible, active participation (Ohler, 2010, p.34). She assists students in developing the literacies and competencies they need for full participation in these new environments.

This educator is developing as a connected learner and hopefully as a connected educator. There are tentative attempts at cooperation, which will hopefully lead to bold collaboration. I have moved beyond lurking and have started to actively engage and contribute, but more importantly: I have become convinced that by participating, I will develop further on the path to being an exemplary connected educator from and with whom my colleagues and students will learn.



Conole, G. (2013). Designing for learning in an open world. New York, NY: Springer New York.

Lindsay, J. (2016). The global educator: Leveraging technology for collaborative learning & teaching. International Society of Technology in Education.

Lucier, R. (2012, June 5). Seven degrees of connectedness [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Mayfield, R. (2006, April 27). Power law of participation [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Nussbaum-Beach, S. (2012, January 13). Why be a connected educator? [Video file]. Retrieved from

Nussbaum-Beach, S., & Hall, L. R. (2012). The connected educator: Learning and leading in a digital age. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Ohler, J. B. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press.

Rheingold, H., & Weeks, A. (2014). Net smart: How to thrive online. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Richardson, W., & Mancabelli, R. (2011). Personal learning networks: Using the power of connections to transform education. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Tolisano, S. (2012, June 7). Seven degrees of connectedness (The infographic) [Blog post]. Retrieved from


Adapting to “a new culture of learning”

Thomas and Brown rightly states that 20th century teacher-centred and classroom-based learning environments do not adequately facilitate 21st century learning.

In the relative stability of the 20th century, education slowly and orderly adapted to changes in society and information was relatively scarce. This has been replaced by an environment characterised by constant connectivity to an expanding networked infrastructure; seamless access to ubiquitous information and new social and participatory media formats. These profound changes were brought about by converging developments in information and communication technologies (ICTs). An information society, characterised by accelerated continual change evolved. In the information society learning is no longer only formal, static and discrete, but also informal, continuous and fluid – not bound to teaching or classroom.

The fundamental shifts necessary for the world of education to adapt to the needs of the information society (and stay relevant) includes a change from teaching-based (passive) education to learning-based education:

  • with the emphasis no longer on teaching about the world, but learning through interacting with the world;
  • learning no longer viewed as an individual activity, but as social – happening in collectives, or communities of shared interest, and through peer-to-peer collaboration;
  • education does not react to change, but embraces change;
  • students do not prove successful information transfer, but ask questions and embrace what they do not know;
  • students do not learn from teachers (in classrooms only), but teachers act as mentors while students learn from the network of information sources that is the information society.

Thomas and Brown proposes “a new culture of learning” that cultivates learning in the 21st century information society. This type of learning requires unlimited access to a network of resources, as well as a structured environment that allows for unlimited agency to question, build and experiment within the boundaries of this environment (Thomas and Brown, 2011, p.19). Much like in the case of “games” and their “rules”, passion and imagination are harnessed to work within the constraints posed by the boundaries of the learning environments. They see play, questioning and the cultivation of imagination as the bedrocks of their “new culture of learning” (p.20), rather than the traditional educational metrics of efficiency, outcomes and answers (p. 118).

Thomas and Brown are not alone in their fundamental understanding of the shifts that are needed in education, see for example this blog post and this essay about the Connected learning movement, which proposes a different, but fundamentally related model for the reformation of education.

How does Thomas and Brown’s new culture of learning reflect my own experiences as an educator and learner in the past two or three years?

As an adult learner, my experience of 21st century learning is similar to this “new culture of learning”. I am convinced that learning has broken through the walls of formal, classroom education for ever. As learners, we are in control of our own self-directed learning. Learning is social and active and ongoing. Learning does not only happen out of textbooks or from a teacher. Experts and specialists as well as communities of interests, peers, social communities and various new forms of information production are all valuable sources of information and catalysts for learning.

As an educator in a school, I fully agree that learning should be learner-directed and –centred and not be bound to content, classroom and teacher. I am also convinced that younger learners need carefully constructed environments in which to learn. I am unsure of how they can safely and responsibly benefit from external collectives and communities of interest. I believe our students need much guidance in developing digital and information literacies and in traversing the information networks.

I have seen significant movement towards collaboration and peer-based learning in our school, but the general experience is still very different from “a new culture of learning”subject-based and result-oriented teaching is still very prevalent as we are primarily focused on preparing students to produce grades that will ensure entry into tertiary educational institutions.

The transformation of traditional education has begun, much remains to be done.



TEDX Talks. (2012, September 12). A new culture of learning, Douglas Thomas at TEDxUFM [Video file]. Retrieved from

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

Critical Reflection Assignment 7B

This high school librarian is on a quest to transform our library to be an enabling learning environment – where learning can be active, self-directed and social. My journey has brought me to this course, INF530, the start of a long-awaited Masters’ study.

Here then, are the big lessons learnt:

Knowledge is a vector (I heard it here), is changeable, and probably (like facts) only has a half-life (Coulter, 2014; The Economist, 2012).  Learning should not be viewed as “internal, individualistic activities” (see my contribution to discussion forum THREAD 2.4:  Thinking in Networks), as I learnt in cognitivism, or  constructivism but can be created in a connected network. Viewing knowledge creation as social and connected, is the KEY: knowledge is “distributed across a network of connections” and really is the connections between entities.  Learning is “the ability to traverse those networks”, or the creation/adjustment/deletion of these connections between entities (Downes, 2010).  This was the first big lesson learnt: My understanding of knowledge, and how we learn, needs updateding in our connected world.  Knowledge Networks (INF532) is next on my journey!

Because of the networked and connected environment of our digital age, learning should not be as teacher-directed and classroom-based, but student-centred and –directed and social.  It is happening more often informally, through communities of practice, moocs and other forms of social or e-learning, than in formal educational institutions – at least in the adult world (Siemens (2004); Downes (2010)).  I knew that teaching content to students sitting in rows is not 21st century best practice, and Wenger made me realise that learning IS social, but Seely Brown (2000) convinced me that our digital learners have all the tools (web 2.0 based – see my blogpost here) needed, for learning to become situated in action.  Learning-to-learn happens naturally when participating in a community of practice (Seely Brown, 2000).  Learners need to learn in their natural habitats – learning ecologies; educators need to support students to construct personal learning networks (says Downes (2017), as I tweeted here) and enable them to learn where they are already interested.  How? Enters: connected learning.

Connected learning is a framework loosely based on connectivism (as formulated by Siemens(2004) and Downes(2010)) and concerned with reimagining a more valid and relevant educational experience for those growing up in the digital age (see my blogpost here).  Connected learning is “socially embedded, interest-driven and oriented towards educational, economic or global opportunity” (Ito, et al., 2013, p.6).  It advocates employing open, social and participatory web 2.0 media (namely online platforms, digital tools for creating, publishing and collaborating, social media and web-based communities) in employing technology to augment learning.  It reasons that connected, peer- and mentor-supported learning that is interest-powered is the most effective. The connected learning approach resonates with my instinctive understanding of what learning can be in the digital age.  This new framework has been accepted well, but not yet implemented widely.  Can connected learning principles be implemented in a high school library?


There are valid links between the principles of connected learning and the work being done in school libraries to adapt to the 21st century (see YALSA; ASLA; Future Ready Librarians and the Alliance for Excellent Education):

  • Creating flexible learning spaces in libraries where students gather to learn collaboratively, to make and create and to “play” at learning in a social environment.
  • Librarians provide access to information sources to pursue not only academic goals, but personal interests. They can (and do) facilitate connections with communities of practice where those with similar interest can share and learn.
  • Libraries are no longer restricted to physical places, but should develop their online spaces to meet learners when and where they learn.
  • Librarians are valuable in helping students and teachers acquire trans-literacy, and information fluency skills and other digital proficiencies needed to be successful critical consumers and creative producers of information sources.
  • Students need mentors to help develop their digital identifies and to become engaged, ethically behaving digital citizens.

Before this course I was (at best) a critical consumer of media.  I am now convinced that knowledge can be collectively and collaboratively generated by engaged members contributing valuable insights to their communities of learning.  I am actively expanding my personal learning network, working on social participation and media production skills. 

The journey has started, there remains much to be learnt.



Alliance for Excellent Education. (2016, March). Future ready librarians. Retrieved from

Australian School Library Association. (2013, April). Future learning and school libraries. Retrieved from

Braun, L. W., Hartman, M. L., Hughes-Hassell, S., & Kumasi, K. (2014, January). The future of library services for and with teens: A call to action. Retrieved from Young Adult Library Services Association website:

Cognitivism. (2015, June 19). Retrieved May 27, 2017, from Learning Theories website:

Connectivism (Siemens, Downes). (2015, June 1). Retrieved May 27, 2017, from Learning Theories website:

Constructivism. (2015, June 20). Retrieved May 27, 2017, from Learning Theories website:

Coulter, P. (Producer). (2014, January 15). The great book of knowledge: Part 1. Ideas. Podcast retrieved from

DMLReseachHub. (2012, October 31). Connected learning: Everyone, everywhere, anytime [Video file]. Retrieved from

Downes, S. (2010). Learning networks and connective knowledge. In H. H. Yang & S. C.-Y. Yuen (Eds.), Collective intelligence and e-Learning 2.0 (pp. 1-26).

Downes, S. (2017, May 16). A model of personal learning. Retrieved May 27, 2017, from

The Economist. (2012, November 28). The half life of facts [Blog post]. Retrieved from Babbage website:

Itu, M., Gutiérrez, K., Livingstone, S., Penuel, B., Rhodes, J., Salen, K., . . . Watkins, S. C. W. (2013). Connected learning: An agenda for research and design. Retrieved from

Massive open online course. (2017, May 11). Retrieved May 27, 2017, from Wikipedia website:

Seely Brown, J. (2000). Growing up digital: How the web changes work, education, and the way people learn. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 32(2), 11-20.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Internationl Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, (Jan). Retrieved from

Tierney, J. (2014, July 16). Connected learning infographic [Video file]. Retrieved from

Wenger, E., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015). Introduction to communities of practice. Retrieved May 27, 2017, from

Wenger, E., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015). Social learning – a framework. Retrieved May 27, 2017, from

Wolf, M. A., Jones, R., & Gilbert, D. (2014, January). Leading in and beyond the library. Retrieved from