As a student, participation in NGL was useful for me

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This post is a summary of my learning ‘as a student’ in the University of Southern Queensland EDU8117 Networked and Global Learning (NLG) course. One of the aims of this course, as outlined by the course convenor, David Jones, is for students to consider transforming our practice using Networked and Global Learning Tools and principles, and reflect on the whether this has been useful (Jones, 2014).

Networked and global learning is based around the theory of Connectivism– the idea that “knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks” (Downes, 2007, para 2; Siemens, 2008). As I discussed in one of my blog posts for the course, in this environment, learning is about forming ‘connections’ rather than just acquiring or transmitting knowledge (Downes, 2007; O’Keefe, 2014). As part of the course, we were encouraged by our convenor to use a range of networked and global learning tools such as – WordPress, Diigo and Feedler – to help guide this process of ‘forming connections’ and to transform our learning (Jones, 2014).

Below are my reflections on how these principles and tools of networked and global learning have been useful for me as a student of the NGL course.

One of the first ways participation in NGL was useful for me, was it has helped to improve the quality of my writing. The students in the course were asked to create a WordPress blog to record and share our leanings each week (Jones, 2014). In one of my posts on WordPress I discuss the work of Associate Professor Jill Walker Rettberg (2009) which looks at why blogging is a useful tool for learning and reflection (O’Keefe, 2014). Some of the reasons she discusses, are that blogging encourages us to communicate our thoughts more clearly, present more thoughtful arguments and carefully edited writing because we are writing to an audience (Walker Rettberg, 2009). This certainly proved to be the case for me. I made sure to carefully consider the content of my posts, and took steps to properly reference material (as I discuss in my post here) and proofread my work, knowing that other members of the class and our course convenor would be reading them (Walker Rettberg, 2009; O’Keefe, 2014). At times, I even used the ‘editing’ feature to update or expand upon my previous posts (O’Keefe, 2014).

The article by Walker Rettberg (2009) also discusses how blogging can encourage reflection and enhance learning through peer review. The comments I received on my post from my peers and the course convenor, improved my learning by helping to reinforce the ideas I have presented and identify gaps in my thinking. Examples of this included comments by David Jones (2014) on my post – ‘A Confused Student: Understanding through the Threshold Concept’ and comments from my peers here and here (O’Keefe, 2014). Reviewing the blogs of my peers, also helped me to think critically about my work and make changes to improve, such as my post on Online Image Credits (Walker Rettberg, 2009; O’Keefe, 2014).

Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) is another strategy the class was introduced to in the NGL course, to assist with staying ‘connected in the network era’ (Jarche, 2011; O’Keefe, 2014). This tool helped to guide my participation in the course in relation to seeking and making sense or information and then sharing my learning. In developing this PKM I considered a number of NGL tools and strategies that I could use to make connections with others to enhance my learning. The ‘share’ component of the Personal Knowledge Management plan involved using networking platforms to help others to establish connections with our work. Steven Downes provides a useful explanation of the value of sharing learning, which I discuss on one of my blog posts “what you’re doing when you share is to create material that other people can learn from. Your sharing creates more content ….People appreciate that, you will probably appreciate the content other people …share with you” (Downes, 2011, para 27).

WordPress and Diigo were two tools that I used to review the resources shared by my peers and identity relevant information to inform my work (O’Keefe, 2014). Examples of this include my post ‘How to harness the amazing ideas of others’ and ‘Insightful Post from Global Connection USQ’ (Droney, 2014; O’Keefe, 2014). Mendely, WordPress, Diigo, YouTube, and Twitter were some of the web platforms I used throughout the course to share knowledge and my learning with others to assist them to learn (O’Keefe, 2014). Evidence of this can be seen in the blog posts by Future Learning Musings, Networked, Global and Learning and Insights to improve their own learning (Smythe, 2014; Size, 2014; Liriges, 2014). I discuss my knowledge sharing using Diigo and Mendely in my post ‘Me as a student’ (O’Keefe, 2014).

I also used another online tool Feedly throughout the course to not only keep track of the online activities of other course members, but to operate more effectively in the networked world by enabling filtering of content to manage ‘cognitive overload’ (Brennan, 2013; O’Keefe, 2014). In one of my posts, I refer to an article by Keith Brennan discussing the concept of ‘cognitive overload’ and how this can affect our feelings of self-efficacy, confidence and success with connecting online (Brennan, 2013; O’Keefe, 2014). In another post ‘A confused student: understanding through the threshold concept’ I explore some of the challenges new learners are confronted with when trying to navigate through the networked world, as discussed by Giedre Kligyte (2009), such as the online language and the seemingly messy process of learning and connecting in the networked space (O’Keefe, 2014).

In addition to using Feedly, being able to read how other members of the course have worked through these similar challenges, via their own blogs, also helped to build by confidence and self-efficacy in order to participate effectively in networked and global learning (Brennan, 2013). This is discussed further in this post (O’Keefe, 2014). I was also able to efficiently use NGL to support my learning through actively participating in NGL activities such as creating and using a WordPress Blog, as specified in the course aims and observing the course convenor doing the same (Jones, 2014). Active participation and leading by example, are two effective strategies to support networked learning, which I have discussed in my post ‘Why is Blogging so useful for reflection and learning’ and which is also referred to on the 23 Things website, linked on my blog here (Walker Rettberg, 2009; Adult, Community & Further Education, 2013; O’Keefe, 2014).

From my reflections, it is event that there is value in students participating in Networked and Global Learning activities and that with the right tools and principles, a transformation in learning can be achieved. The next step is to consider how these findings might be useful for teachers intending to transform their student’s learning using NGL principles and tools, and also how individuals could use online social networking tools to enhance their learning. I will attempt to address these matters in my upcoming blog posts.

References
Adult, Community & Further Education. (2013). 23Things: an introduction to Web2 for people working in Adult Community Education (ACE). Retrieved September 7, 2014 from http://23things.acfe.vic.edu.au/

Brennan, K. (2013). In Connectivism, No One Can Hear You Scream: a Guide to Understanding the MOOC Novice. Retrieved September 12, 2014, from http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/Journal/in-connectivism-no-one-can-hear-you-scream-a-guide-to-understanding-the-mooc-novice/ .

Downes, S. (2007). What Connectivism is. Retrieved October 3, 2014 from http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2007/02/what-connectivism-is.html

Downes, S. (2011). “Connectivism” and Connective Knowledge. Retrieved September 13, 2014, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/connectivism-and-connecti_b_804653.html

Droney, A. (2014). Global Connection USQ. Retrieved October 27, 2014 from https://globalconnectionusq.wordpress.com/

Jarche, H. (2011). PKM – Personal Knowledge Mastery. Retrieved August 3, 2014 from http://www.jarche.com/pkm/

Jones, D. (2014). An experiment in Networked & Global Learning. Retrieved October, 2014 from https://netgl.wordpress.com/

Kligyte, G. (2009). Threshold Concept: A lens for examining networked learning. In Ascilite 2009 Conference. Retrieved October 16, 2014 from http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland09/procs/kligyte-poster.pdf .

Liriges, D. (2014). Insights. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from http://debliriges.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/reflections-on-learning-and-clem/

O’Keefe, C. (2014). Pushing the Boundaries with Networked Learning. Retrieved October, 2014 from https://pushingtheboundarieswithnetworkedlearning.wordpress.com/

Siemens, G. (2008). New structures and spaces of learning: The systemic impact of connective knowledge, connectivism, and networked learning. Retrieved September 12, 2014 from http://elearnspace.org/Articles/systemic_impact.htm.

Size, P. Networked, Global and Learning. Retrieved October 4, 2014 from http://siblingsofcysticfibrosis.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/clem-and-community/ .

Smythe, E. (2014). Future Learning Musings. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from http://futurelearningmusings.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/connected-learning-and-generative-themes/

Walker Rettberg, J. (2009) Blogging as a Tool for Reflection and Learning. In A. Karin Lars & G. Oline Hole. (Eds.), E-Pedagogy for Teachers in Higher Education. Bergen, Norway: Bergen University College. Retrieved September 12, 2014 from http://www.virclass.net/eped/ep_tmp/files/17842056574abc85cdf304e.pdf

Diversity in Learning

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Diversity Mask by Spiva Arts, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Spiva Arts 

Professor Chris Dede’s quote about the diversity of learning, as shared in the Week 6 readings, is a good reminder of the need to be flexible in our teaching approaches. As a student I have been grateful that I have not been restricted to certain readings or focus for the course – it has given me an opportunity to focus my learning on an area that is practical and revelant for me. As a teacher, I need to consider this element of choice in the learning for my students. One way would be to ensure the networked learning activity I implement in my learning context is structured to support inquiry-based learning which can enable students to explore problems, ask questions and make discoveries that fulfill their personal curiosities (Drexler, 2010).

Reference

Drexler, W. (2010). The networked student model for construction of personal learning environments: Balancing teacher control and student autonomy. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(3), 369-385. Retrieved from: http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet26/drexler.html

How to harness the amazing ideas of others !

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Derek Sivers’ you tube video ‘Obvious to you. Amazing to others’ shared on the NGL Diigo really struck a chord with me. After all,  who hasn’t been surprised when someone else has found their idea useful, even we when thought it wasn’t really new or innovative at all?

I have even experienced this as a student of this NGL course, where I have been pleasantly surprised that peers have found some of my blog posts useful…even when I thought my ideas were just run-of-the-mill.

Anyway, in role as a teacher, one of the key questions I need to explore is how this idea can apply to the students in my organisation?

I can certainly see that one of the principles of NGL – connectivitism –  could help to surface some of the knowledge of my students.

After all, connectivism is about forming connections for learning and not simply trying to ‘acquire’ or ‘transmit’ knowledge (Downes, 2011). It’s about sharing your ideas to benefit the whole. This is because, as Steven Downes so nicely put it, “what you’re doing when you share is to create material that other people can learn from. Your sharing creates more content ….People appreciate that, you will probably appreciate the content other people …share with you.” (Downes, 2011).

Even though in my work environment, we need our students to ‘acquire’ some knowledge about the new procedures we want to implement in our organisation, by enabling discussion to occur around these procedures, we could open the doors to new and better ideas. In fact, as some of our procedure documents are still being developed, we could make them available on an online collaborative site, like SharePoint, for our students to comment on and critique prior to finalisation. With the input from our staff members (the students) who are working on the ground, their subject matter expertise would be invaluable, and would help gain their buy in as we transition to new practices.

Now that’s an idea!

References

Downes, S. (2011). “Connectivism” and Connective Knowledge. Retrieved August 05, 2014, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/connectivism-and-connecti_b_804653.html

Why is Blogging so useful for reflection and learning?

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Associate Professor Jill Walker Rettberg has discussed how Blogging is a useful tool for reflection and learning in her paper available in the E-Pedagogy for Teachers in Higher Education Virtual Book – available here .

Some of these reasons she suggests that blogging is helpful for learning and reflection include:

* It helps us to communicate our thoughts more clearly and our thoughts are more carefully considered because we know that it is for an audience

*Blogging makes it easier to practice writing – it is quick and easy to post our thoughts online and respond to external ideas through blogs. Also, because others will read and respond our posts, we are more inclined to better spelling, grammar and punctuation.

*It increases our confidence in writing and learning because we are actually creating and publishing something (higher order learning)

*It enables Peer Review and Reflection – We produce better work and help others do the same through being able to give and receive feedback quickly and easily through Blogs. We are also able then to reflect on, edit and reshape our ideas online.

Walker Rettberg then went on to discuss how she used blogging in her own classes, leading by example, just as David Jones has done throughout this NGL course.

As a student, this paper has provided me with some further theoretical underpinnings for why I have found blogging so useful in this course and why I have benefitted from following our course convenor’s own blog.

It was also great to read another post on the FutureLearningMusings on the same topic and which explores some other aspects of blogging.


Reference

Walker Rettberg, J. Blogging as a Tool for Reflection and Learning. In A. Karin Lars & G. Oline Hole. (Eds.), E-Pedagogy for Teachers in Higher Education. Bergen, Norway: Bergen University College. Retrieved from http://www.virclass.net/eped/ep_tmp/files/17842056574abc85cdf304e.pdf

Woohoo I now have a blog..continued..

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Now that I am getting into my assignments for the NGL course I am taking a moment to reflect my posts. “Woohoo I now have a blog’ was the first post I made on Pushing the Boundaries with Networked learning”. It showed the excitement I had at getting involved in the NGL course and finally making a space of my own online.

Looking at the initial posts of my peers in this course, it was nice to see that this enthusiasm was shared by others.  I can even relate to the sense of nervousness expressed by another peer.

What has also been valuable for me was that others have shared their frustrations.

One of the frustrations I have experienced is that sadly, I somehow seem to have deleted my first post “woohoo, I know have a blog”- just another example of me as a new learner in the Blogging world, trying to find my feet and getting my head around how to use this new technology.

I’m grateful to Mari in sharing the link to Keith Brennan’s article which has helped me to better understand my fluctuating feelings and also frustrations with connectivist learning as a novice.

Keith Brennan discusses the idea of cognitive overload and its effects on our self-efficacy, which is key to our confidence and success in connecting online. From this article I can also see that being able to see how other the feelings of other people in the course, have also fluctuated over time, did in fact help with making sense of WordPress and the course, and with building my confidence to keep posting. The feedly tool proposed by David Jones, also helped me with this cognitive overload.

Insightful post from globalconnectionusq

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Andrew Downey shared an insightful post on his blog globalconnectionusq about some of the limitations of NGL. He mentions that it seems “that everyone is very positive about NGL but no one is discussing some negative aspects of it.” I certainly have been largely extolling the virtues of this learning method in my posts, due to my excitement at having a new bunch of techno tools to play with. Although I have touched on the challenges of workplace web-security as a limitation to working in the online space, I had not considered some of the other aspects Andrew draws our attention to in his post:

“Equity and Accessibility to Technology-could be a large issue for students who may live in rural or low socioeconomic areas or simply have logistical problems accessing it.

Computer Literacy-Both students and facilitators must possess a minimum level of computer knowledge in order to function successfully in an online environment

The Students-While an online method of education can be a highly effective alternative medium of education for the mature, self-disciplined student, it is an inappropriate learning environment for more dependent learners and can cause issues with appropriate use of the technology

The Facilitator-Lack of essential online qualities and may struggle to teach and grasp the concepts of the technology”

In fact, Equity and Accessibility in particular is challenging for me as a teacher, as my students are dispersed across the country and do not all have access to the best technology. This will be something I will need to consider at greater length as I look to design a fitting NGL activity in my context. Each of the other limitations he has discussed have also provided me with some useful food for thought. Thanks Andrew for thinking critically about this topic and sharing your ideas.

Task, Practice and Knowledge Based Communities – Online learning

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Riel and Polin’s article ‘Online Learning Communities’ is based around the premise that learning is a social activity and is at the heart of online learning communities – an idea that already holds quite a bit of ground in the educatoin field, as Anne (another NGL course participant) has already discussed.

The article goes on to explore three different types of learning communities – task based, practice based, and knowledge based – which exist together in a learning organisation. Each of these can be supported through technological systems to deliver benefits for both teachers and students, e.g.
• Through supporting interactions via online tools
• By introducing students to professional communities and enabling them to be part of a team
• Through providing students with opportunities to experience handling tools for inquiry
• Helping students to be familiar with and build skills with working in online communities and observe other (expert practitioners) in the field
• Providing practical and expert support networks for teachers

As a student
While reading the paper, I could see examples of each of these communities in the NGL course –
Task-based – the way in which the fellow NGL students are sharing and reviewing blogs to meet the assessment requirements of this uni course
Practice-based – through the links we share and discussions on our blogs about literature in the field of Networked and Global learning. By doing so we building our knowledge as practicioners in the education field.
Knowledge-based – through posting online and recording articles in Diigo and linking to each others’ blogs. We are creating an online repository of information on NGL!

As a teacher
In my role as a teacher I can see value in drawing on each of these three types of communities – task, practice and knowledge based – to support learning in my organisation.
So far I have had some preliminary discussions with staff members and senior management about what sort of learning activities we will need to implement to achieve our aims of transitioning staff to new practices in the coming months. In these discussions we have tossed around the idea of setting up an internal collaborative website for our staff (the students) where we could provide information and training modules for the new practices we are going to implement. On the site staff can read and discuss the modules or new procedures with their peers, and ask each other questions to assist with the change (task-based learning). We were also looking at setting up a ‘library’ section of the collaborative site, where we could keep records of key information about our area of work that staff could draw from into the future (knowledge- based). It was also hoped that the staff would use the collaborative site to upload articles or news about new changes or ideas in the field or to provide mentoring to fellow staff in both the short and long term, to support existing and future staff to improve their practice (practice-based).

Reference

Riel, M., & Polin, L. (2004). Online learning communities: Common ground and critical differences in designing technical environments. In S. A. Barab, R. Kling, & J. Gray (Eds.), Designing for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning (pp. 16–50). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.