I have been engaging with #etmooc mainly via Twitter, Google+ and Blackboard Collaborate of late. It’s difficult to attend to my blog as often as I envisioned when I started #etmooc earlier this month.
Reasons? I’m currently enrolled in three MOOCs – all running simultaneously – and it seems that the best way to engage with all three is via Twitter and Google+
This morning, whilst reading through the #etmooc blog, I found some great questions posed to participants – all of which gave me more food for thought. I have decided to post my responses to these questions here:
- What does my PLE/PLN look like? How can I share it?
My PLN looks like a rhizome! ( Thanks, @davecormier )
I am connected in so many ways to people, blogs and sites that are all highly relevant to what I do, and that all offer information of use to me. It’s a social media mess and I’m loving it!As a librarian, I am one who is always professionally obliged (and happily so) to share information of all sorts, so I constantly do so throughout my work day. Twitter, Google+ – these have both become essential tools for me. But, I have also created a Facebook page – to share what I’m learning with anyone interested (i.e. my colleagues) and to keep track of my learning. My Diigo account is also getting a good run these days. During the whole #etmooc experience, I am seeing new and exciting ways to enhance my liaison with teaching staff and share with colleagues.
- How important is connected learning? Why?
Now that I’m seeing and experiencing more and more connections in my PLN, I can’t imagine how I ever functioned without it! It’s so natural for me to connect, share, collaborate, learn and teach all at once, it has truly become of utmost importance to me. This might sound funny to those of you reading this post, but I can’t even abide the concept of creating a Word document, saving it to my hard drive or USB stick, and attaching it to an email to another colleague! I am well and truly in The Cloud, and try my best to impress upon others the facile method of working on that same “document” via Google Drive, or something similar in a far more connected and immediate way.
- Is it possible for our classrooms and institutions to support this kind of learning? If so, how?
Definitely! In Melbourne, Australia, they seem to be doing this rather well at Monash University. I remember going to an eLearning mini-conference late last year, where Samantha Garrett presented, telling how Monash staff and students are embracing and effectively using Google Apps to their best advantage. I remember feeling inspired at the time, and went away thinking of ways this kind of online collaboration could be entrenched in my institution and/or my department.As a library, we have good social media outlets and connections at the university I work for, but I want more. I try my best to lead by example, and try to make connections with colleagues in a multitude of ways, whether it be via Blackboard, Web 2.0 tools for engagement with students during my classes, providing training to staff in my liaison areas, or, even by marketing and connecting via online avenues, whatever they may be. I just keep chipping away, trying out new ideas as they occur to me, sharing them with others to see if they catch on, and if I hear an echo, I run with it.
- What skills and literacies are necessary for connected learning? How do we develop these?
I fell like I’m ahead of the ball on this one. One of my specialisations is information literacy – I am not a teacher, but I am constantly teaching others how to be information literate. As time goes on, the role of the librarian is encompassing both digital and information literacy. It’s practically at the stage where one cannot exist without the other.So, acquiring skills and competency in digital literacy and connected learning is not difficult for me – it’s a habit. Even more so, as I used to be an Internet Consultant in the 90s, before I became a librarian!
I develop these skills by practice – I play with new tools… I have discovered that I learn quite well by playing. I also practice newly acquired skills by teaching them to others – so, ultimately, I find that I remember what I learned, because others ask for reminders, or refresher training, of me.
- What are limits of openness in regards to privacy & vulnerability? Are we creating or worsening a digital divide?
I am a firm advocate of connecting with students via these technologies, no matter which educational environment one is in.For example, Cyber-bullying is a major concern in Australia at present (as I’m sure it is in other countries). Imagine… if a teacher is completely literate in digital technologies, and connects with his/her students via these technologies, you’d assume that the topics of online privacy and vulnerability would come up at some stage, right? And don’t you think that under-age students would benefit from learning more about these issues if it was embedded in their course curricula?Obviously, there are limits to online privacy and vulnerability. Personally, I have two of everything, for starters. I have two Twitter accounts, two Facebook accounts, two Google accounts, etc. This helps me to distinguish between the professional and personal MEs. At this point, I must also make it clear that I don’t behave in an inappropriate manner when using either versions of me. Over the years, I have learnt that having an online presence leaves a nice, long, digital footprint. I shudder to think about a prospective, future employer see an inappropriate version of me in cyberspace that I had posted two or three years ago and conveniently forgotten about. I’m sure that the worst thing they’d see is that I’m a leftie, with an opinionated, artistic bent.
The second part of this question is a difficult one to answer. I recall when I first found out about the digital divide. Back then, it was mainly referring to the difference between the haves and the have-nots. Those who could afford access to the internet, and those who couldn’t. Nowadays, it’s taken on a variant meaning… I see the divide as referring to those who are digitally literate and those who aren’t. Of course, unfortunately, poverty still exists in the world, and the previous definition of the divide is still pertinent, but now, it has expanded in its meaning. The digital divide has been created, regardless of which definition it goes under. And yes, it has worsened.
If I can purely focus on the second definition I have provided here, I think it’s worsening for a few reasons. Firstly, there’s so much information out there. It’s hard, nay, impossible, for an individual to keep up with all of it. Secondly, if one is better armed with the skills and the willingness to try to keep up with some of it, which tools should one use to access it? The rate of change and evolution is increasing on a daily basis, as businesses and companies try to stay ahead of the pack, and offer the best product. Further to this, I haven’t helped but noticing that as the competition gets more fierce, we have more options AND less options. The giants endure, and the little corporations eventually die off, as the giants get bigger and bigger – they just can’t compete. That old adage is true… money makes the world go ’round.
- How do we expand this conversation?
Any which way we can! Engage, share, talk, chat, teach, learn… as much and as often as possible. Make it a habit. Talk to others… and if they don’t want to know (or aren’t ready to), talk to yourself – blog, create, post to the world, tweet. A few years back, I remember hearing the word viral being used to describe the expansion of knowledge and/or the number of time something was being examined. Despite the initial negative connotation this word had. it definitely made me take notice. Now, the word is used and referred to in an off-hand way to describe the popularity of something on the world wide web. But, I think it applies to a lot of what goes on continually, every day, hour, minute and second… the conversation, and however it is defined, is viral and expanded upon constantly. In education circles, the professions associated enjoy expanding on this conversation. It is an imperative to ensure relevance and survival.