As a student, participating in NGL was useful to me

As a student of EDU8117 I found the structure of the Networked Global Learning (NGL) course to be challenging in comparison to previous courses I had taken. The impost to understand the course structure and expectation of engagement placed on leaners meant that for me the initial readings in the course blog were postponed until I had a grasp of what was needed of me. These expectations were: the method in which we were to learn the course material; initially using the course blog, to interact with each other; via comments in our own dispersed blogs, and to interact with our facilitator; via scheduled web meetings. As these activities occurred outside of the university Learning Management System (LMS) this was a daunting change for me. I have worked as a student and professionally with LMSs for many years and have constructed a ‘LMS’ toolbelt (Socol, 2008) to effectively achieve whatever learning outcome I’m faced with or task to be performed. Being removed from this environment where my LMS toolbelt was not useful was unexpected and challenging. Initially, this change of practice put me in a liminal space (Kligyte, 2009) as I searched for new technologies to manage my learning.

To this end I appreciated the open nature of the course, the course blog was available in its entirety and previous student blogs were also available to review. I found reviewing the paths that previous students had taken helped in creating my own plan, it helped with selecting which subject would be appropriate and what technology previous students had used in collating the multitude of information sources. Downes mentions openness as a feature of a network (Downes, S. 2007) and I believe is of vital importance for the integration of a course with NGL principles. I believe having an open course encourages inquiry and exploration that is not impeded by time released materials, time releasing is a wall, an “assertion of exclusivity” (Downes, S. 2007).

Similarly seeing other course members blogs was useful in understanding that I was not alone in my uncertainty of how to progress. Further to this, discussing the course subject matter with students who were undertaking a similar journey was useful, for me it helped define our community’s shared purpose (Riel and Polin, 2004). Conversely, as a learner I was tackling my subject matter alone and the contrast was stark. As a student, I would share videos I found to be useful or comment on other students’ blogs and they did the same, as a learner I found it difficult to find peers who were learning the same material and as such I was unable to build a toolbelt with submissions from others or feel a sense of community. The tools I used as a learner came from my own experience and knowledge but the tools and resources I used as a student of the course were gathered with input from other students in the course; the uptake of Lauren’s knowledge mapping software for example. I wasn’t alone as a student in the course in the same way I was as a learner, I was able to comment on other blogs, talk in web-meetings, share resources, and get a feel for others’ progress. We didn’t interact as much as we could have, other students pointing out that we were a the group and more reminiscent of a task-based community however I think the requisite potency of the defining characteristics can be subjective.

The use of a blog to reflect on weekly readings and other course materials was a useful tool for me. On reflection, this method for creating and sharing knowledge has become a new tool in my Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) routine (Jarche, 2014), one I hadn’t previously identified. The threshold concept of irreversibility (Kilgyte, 2009) does ring true with regards to using blogging, or at least journaling, as a mechanism for making sense. The journaling part of the blog was a suitable method of making sense of the course material and the comments were a useful method of sharing information. However, as the blogs were dispersed and as a cohort we hadn’t developed the network literacy to interact in this discursive network (Kilgyte, 2009) I believe that network cohesion was dampened when comments throughout the network were not forthcoming. As Goodyear suggests “trust and information sharing give networks the advantage of resilience in times of change” (Goodyear, 2014, p25), I believe that overall we were slow in sharing information via blog comments and our resilience suffered. Considering this for future implementation some facilitation is needed with regards to getting student in interact with each other. This was done in the course with weekly activities and requiring linking to other student’s blog posts but in my teacher context it will need to be couched in technology recommendations.

Bearing in mind Downes’ definitions of a network needing a facilitation, I believe the web meetings were designed to allow us to discuss our common issues, to create an environment for “mutual exchange of value” (Downes, S. 2007). This environment also provided an avenue for accidental and serendipitous learning (Jarche, 2011) by having the facilitator prompt us for our context. However, I believe that the meetings needed more participants for the conversation to flow. Removing the synchronous nature of the question and answer session and asking students to post their questions prior to the web meeting. Might allow for a larger gamut of questions could be asked, thereby increasing the chance of serendipitous learning.

Overall, as a student, participation in NGL was useful to me as I found that blogging to be a useful method for creating and sharing knowledge. Participating as a student made it clear to me that NGL principles work best when material is open. Furthermore, that a student’s familiarity, or lack of, with technology can cause confusion and obfuscation of the bigger learning journey when working in an NGL environment.

 

Downes, S. (2007). Groups vs Networks: The Class Struggle Continues. Retrieved 16 August, 2017, from http://www.downes.ca/post/42521

Goodyear, P. (2014), Productive Learning Networks.  The Evolution of Research and Practice. In Carvalho, L. & Goodyear, P. (Eds.), The Architecture of Productive Learning Networks. (pp. 23-47). New York: Routledge.

Jarche, H. (2014). What is your PKM routine? Retrieved 2 September, 2017, from http://jarche.com/2014/03/what-is-your-pkm-routine/

Jarche, H. (2011). Social Learning, Complexity and the Enterprise. Retrieved 8 September, 2017, from http://jarche.com/2011/04/social-learning-complexity-and-the-enterprise/

Kligyte, G. (2009). Threshold concept: A lens for examining networked learning. In Same places, different spaces. Proceedings ascilite Auckland 2009. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland09/procs/kligyte-poster.pdf

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.

Socol, I. (2008). Toolbelt Theory for Everyone. Retrieved 27 August, 2017, from http://speedchange.blogspot.com.au/2008/05/toolbelt-theory-for-everyone.html

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