As a learner, participating in NGL was useful to me

As a learner, using NGL principles to learn about blockchain technology I did not achieve the objective I planned. This is not to say they weren’t useful, I do believe in hindsight that NGL principles will be useful as a learner next time I undertake a learning project. I have found that Kilgyte’s quote “the ultimate destination in exploring networked learning is most often not fully understood at the starting point of the journey” (Kilgyte, 2009, p541), rings true with regards to utilising NGL principles for the first time. During my learning journey I experienced liminality when re-defining my scope multiple times and often devoting time to features tangential to my main area of focus. Further to this I experienced filter failure and a high barrier to entry due to the jargon used in information sources that I chose. I attribute many of these issues to the Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) routine (Jarche, 2014) that I developed and the tool choices that accompanied it.

My objective was to learn about blockchain technology and develop a web application that utilises it. The process of creating that application was embedded as part of my CLEM schema; using familiar programming libraries as a model to implement my knowledge. Using Riel and Polin’s definitions for learning communities (Riel, M., & Polin, L., 2004) I identified that I would need to construct a task-based learning community around myself. As such I planned my tool use in line with my PKM routine in that my “learning goals [were] a part of the project” (Riel, M., & Polin, L., 2004, p38) and that it would “[end] with the completion of the product that reflects the learning” (Riel, M., & Polin, L., 2004, p39). With those tools I challenged myself to be more social through the PKM routine in the seeking, sensing and sharing stage, influenced by Jarche’s belief that “social learning is how groups work and share knowledge to become better practitioners” (Jarche, 2011).

Understanding and defining my PKM routine was an extremely useful exercise as a learner as it helped me plan my learning journey and define what tools I would use to undertake it. However, the plan, in terms of tool use, didn’t eventuate as expected. I found that the podcasts, blog posts and sub-reddits I selected where too high level to begin with; using jargon and discussing the bleeding edge of the technology. I believe my lack of understanding of the subject matter meant that I was unable to select appropriate tools and information sources. I had no filter, it all seemed relevant.

Further to this my scope of information sources was too broad, I searched for information in the bitcoin subreddit, subscribed to a blog about smart contracts and listened to podcasts about crypto-currency. Indicating that I was within the liminality threshold “shifting back and forth” across a messy terrain (Kilgyte, 2009, p541). These sources of information discussed blockchain technology as a mechanism to achieve the outcome of the applications, as such the information was more directed to the application not the technology that drives it; which was where my interest lay. I soon realised I needed to seek out a primer; videos or websites that explained the base-level knowledge.

The tools I selected were more prominent in my personal learning than my professional learning life, which if used in accordance with my PKM routine and learning plan would have created a more integrative learning network (Kilgyte, 2009). However, because I hadn’t previously used these tools in a social way I fell into my usual habits when using the tools rather than trying to create new habits that involved being more social. Typically, I share knowledge in person; explaining a concept to a friend, colleague or family member. If I want to know an answer to a question I search for the question that I want to ask, rather than simply asking it. Or if I can’t find a suitable version of my question I break the question down to its subsequent parts and search for those parts individually. Upon reflection as student of the NGL course I believe a blog would be an effective tool to make sense and share knowledge as a learner using an updated PKM routine.

My lack of social interaction was one factor to the feeling of isolation from the communities I found, I also believe it was also due to the tools I chose to use. If I had chosen a MOOC or online course I would have had a collection of other learners to seek, make sense and share with, a readymade cohort at the same or similar level of knowledge. This may have also prompted more social interaction in my PKM routine.

One of the tools I chose to use I hadn’t previously identified as a tool in my learning network even though I use it every day. I listen to podcasts daily whilst performing other activities: travelling, cooking, cleaning or gardening. My belief was that this tool that I frequently use would translate very well when trying to learn about the blockchain. However, the subject matter of my common podcasts, if not entertainment, are subjects that I’m intimately familiar with and as such the concentration level needed to understand the conversation is not that high. However, I found listening to a podcast about blockchain technology whilst performing another action was difficult. To the point where, while driving, I frequently caught myself not listening while a podcast was playing; rather, thinking about something else. I attribute this in part to cognitive overload and in part to the manner in which I used the tool. In a similar manner to my use of sub-reddits, when I had to use the tool in a way that I previously hadn’t I was unable to achieve the same outcome.

As a learner, NGL principles will be useful for me in the future. As a learner, I felt as though I was isolated learning about blockchain technology, my tool selection was poor and my PKM routine did not work for me. I may be more effective next time as a learner using NGL principles now that I know that blogs are a useful method for me to make sense and share knowledge.


Jarche, H. (2014). What is your PKM routine? Retrieved 2 September, 2017, from

Jarche, H. (2011). Social Learning, Complexity and the Enterprise. Retrieved 8 September, 2017, from

Kligyte, G. (2009). Threshold concept: A lens for examining networked learning. In Same places, different spaces. Proceedings ascilite Auckland 2009.

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.


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