DBR- Proposal

Introduction
Designing a course or learning event in the digital era requires an awareness of what tools and resources are not only available, but learning how to filter, use them in the correct way and be able to provide support to students are important factors. A sound understanding of digital literacy, networked learning and online pedagogy needs to be the starting point from which to begin. In the following proposal I will be looking at how to enhance the language acquisition of second-language (L2) learners by the design of a new approach of implementing principles of Networked and Global Learning (NGL) to my existing context as a face-to-face (FTF) IELTS tutor to my Korean students.
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Statement of Problem
In my context as a classroom tutor, I am acutely aware of the fact that my students have a limited time to spend practising their second language (L2) skills with me in the short hours we spend together each week. Whilst I encourage my student to email or call me during the week to further practice their language skills, they have yet to do so. When I have asked them why, the response is that they feel vulnerable speaking one-on-one to a native speaker and the pressure of that situation unnerves them. When I ask my students about their social lives, they often answer that they work, socialise and live within communities of other Korean speakers, they do not attempt to make Australian friends because they are too nervous about the language barrier. This is not specific to my students, Benny Lewis blogs about his experiences with language learners and learning and the issue of expat communities limiting exposure to the language and culture surrounding them, as language is a social tool, it should be learned in the same manner (Lewis, 2011). Often, languages are taught as a code to be learned rather than as a social practice (Liddicoat & Scarino, 2009; Garrett, 2008; Thorne et al, 2009). The matter of linguistic self-confidence is something to be addressed and the most common solution for fostering this is in implementing community-based learning programmes (Pellettieri, 2011) which, most importantly, facilitate student-student communication, interaction and knowledge-sharing.

Research Questions
The main research question that is focused on within this proposal is:
How will implementing NGL principles enhance L2 learning for IELTS students?

Sub-questions to be investigated are:
– What NGL principles best support the facilitation of an online L2 community?
– What are the limitations?

Literature Review

Traditional educational settings have been rather slow to catch on to the meteoric rise of informal learning which now occurs in a variety of easily accessible ways through online communities of practice and personal learning networks (Siemans, 2005). Whilst education in its slow approach to online learning has largely adopted the use of online Learning Management Systems (LMS), there is now an increasing need for formal educational settings to incorporate the informal and open learning approach.
In our digital world we have the ability to access information on any topic we can imagine with just our mobile devices, with millions of available learning networks to choose from and endless information resources available to us within seconds. As the move from instructor-led to student-led learning becomes more prominent in educational settings, the use of technology in education and the evolution of traditional pedagogies continues. Platforms embracing student-centred learning and connectivist principles (Downes, 2011) are now emerging as the new ‘normal’ in education.
Principles of NGL and Connectivism are defined by Blackhall, 2007 & Siemans, 2005 (as cited in Kligyte, 2009) as the ability of learners to access endless sources of information, build relationships and collaborate to build knowledge of formal educational environments. The ability to establish and maintain relationships whilst collectively building knowledge amongst L2 learners is the driving force behind this proposal, effective ways in which to do this is to provide opportunities for interactivity with the content and allow as often as possible for learner collaboration and peer review (Pelz, 2004). Whilst in class my students are very happy to speak English in the group setting because they can help one another in understanding meanings and translate for one another. This example of learning as social construct is the reason why we teach L2 in small groups, to enable collaboration amongst students and co-construction of meaning. What is lacking is the maintenance of language practice and linguistic self-confidence between our FTF sessions. When considering the principles of NGL, the idea of facilitating an online knowledge-based community of learners (Riel & Polin, 2004) seeking to advance the collective understanding of the subject of L2 appears to offer the best solution to the problem. This communicative approach to L2 learning using web 2.0 technologies is ideal as it teaches learners to communicate using their target language and through the use of authentic situations, i.e. expressing opinions, offering critiques and practising everyday linguistic interaction (Byer, 2014).
A particular concern when designing for online learning is that students may feel a sense of disengagement from the learning content, even more so when considering the students are also trying to overcome a language barrier and with varying degrees of proficiency to consider, this is why the ability to communicate and share their understandings is of such vital importance (Rourke & Coleman, 2011; DuCharme-Hansen & Dupin-Bryant, 2011) as is the need for a critically reflective online space (Mezirow, 2009). The solution is to make use of technology and e-learning to merge online and FTF learning to maximise the possibility of collaboration and critical reflection between participants in using blogs or wikis as a form of communication in which ideas and understandings can evolve and be shared (Duffy & Bruns, 2006), and to encourage students in the creation, sharing and maintenance of Personal Learning Networks (PLN) not only within the class but also seeking connections elsewhere to incorporate the wider learning potential of NGL (Burt, 2014) to create a larger learning community and therefore promote transformative learning (Reushle, 2010).

The intervention

In my setting, I am proposing to make the use of a well-known LMS, Moodle as the main platform from which I will be facilitating online communication of course content and links to participants blogs and space in which participants can also share useful links they have found within their own PLNs. The moodle platform permits a wide range of tools such as tests, wikis or forums and especially important in this context is the ability to create activities within glossaries (Guillén-Gámez& García-Magariño, 2015). For L2 learners, being able to hear a pronunciation, as well as the ability to have a visual representation of a word is thought to enhance language retention. Of further benefit to the learning environment is the fact that the learners themselves can create this glossary. This practice of students creating their own glossary was researched by Marrone et al., (2012) as a new method of L2 learning and proved a greatly successful exercise in creating a reusable resource which enhanced learner experience by offering them the chance to create their own practice material using collaboration and the chance to peer review one another’s contributions to the glossary (Marrone et al., 2012). By being able to make use of the range of educational tools, activities and media available to enhance a learning community through Moodle also means addressing the varying degrees of understanding individuals have will be easily measured and able to be addressed through shared understanding and peer interaction as well as tutor-student interaction (Collis & Moonen, 2002).
Whilst using Moodle is a practical online space for students to communicate and share, another focus of the proposal is to encourage individuals to create their own PLNs, which they will share with the group via blogs on Moodle with links to their findings, finding ways in which to encourage your students to develop their PLNs often starts by demonstrating your own PLNs and also from encouraging them to seek wider connections for themselves online, examples of which can be found on the WHAT ED SAID blog . It is important that learners experience the wider world of open learning networks as well as function within a learning community in a measurable learning space that can measure outcomes and monitor progress. In sharing their findings with others, individuals are creating further potential connections to embrace the nature of NGL to its fullest potential. Encouraging the exploration of platforms such as twitter, VoiceThread and the many other alternatives available may enhance the learning community significantly. Whilst the benefits of having an online social platform from which participants can communicate with one another are discussed throughout this proposal, the limitations or issues are also abundant. As well as the potential for a period of unsettlement as students become accustomed to learning in a new environment and/or community and getting grips with using new methods and approaches to learning, from an L2 perspective, becoming accustomed to communicating in a foreign language may prove initially alien.

When faced with the differences between formal language acquisition and idioms and text-speech, despite the difficulties that may arise in the beginning, learning informal English is arguably a better way to learn. When I teach English language idioms to my class, putting them into context always proves to be relatively difficult in terms of them understanding why we use them, whereas being immersed in an informal learning environment may enhance their ability to understand their uses. Being a part of a more informal learning environment is more realistic to everyday life and will enhance the students’ ability to converse more easily with native speakers when they understand their casual language uses, most of us intuitively feel we learn best outside of the formal system, with deeper learning occurring through meaningful interactions throughout work and life (Holmen, 2014). Being able to bring phrases from their PLNs back to our central hub in Moodle, or raising them in-class will most likely offer far more opportunity than I can provide by trying to think of and provide examples. Being able to utilise an approach that incorporates an LMS and PLNs appears to be a solution that works in my context as well as in many others. As Mott argues in 2010, the future of technology in higher education will largely be defined by how we strike a balance between the two (Mott, 2010). Overcoming issues that arise in the initial setting up of the new technology and language issues will be through communication via the forum and in our FTF sessions. The fact that activities and assignments to be produced online will be assisted by asynchronous forum and blog participation will also help to enhance understanding by providing a resource that can be revisited, offers peer-peer interaction and the ability for participants to spend time preparing their work before posting online. In terms of maintaining connections online, following one another’s blog posts through a feed such as Feedly will offer the chance for students to keep up-to-date with one another’s progress and offer opportunity for further interaction among participants.
With little to no cost involved in the implementation of this proposal, the potential benefits of doing so seem to be too worthy to miss, as I have already discussed with my employer at the tutoring academy, it is something he is interested in looking into, although his reservations are not entirely unfounded in the implication that offering an open online learning opportunity may negatively affect the income he receives from offering FTF tuition which he believes will become a thing of the past, as well as his uncertainly of how secure an online course actually is. Online security is another implication to consider when partaking in any online community, again raising the issue of digital literacy research and teaching as a prior consideration of the implementation of such a proposal. The academy is based within Australian National University (ANU) and so we are privileged to have access to a range of technology that would be useful in setting up an online platform and providing resources such as the ability for students to create videos and podcasts should they not have access to the technology at home. Having access to these things for within our FTF sessions also offers the opportunity for demonstrating the use of them and how to overcome technical issues should they arise.

Conclusion
Whilst there are most likely going to be issues not already expected within this proposal and possibly more difficulties with language barriers for some students to overcome than others, the hope is that offering an opportunity for a supportive and interactive community will provide the chance to overcome these barriers as a group of learners. This proposal outlines the ways in which I have considered in its design the factors of NGL that promote connections between peers, between learners and tutors, and between a learning community and its resources (Goodyear, 2005) whilst considering the implications and benefits of doing so within a community of L2 learners seeking to expand their understanding of a foreign language.

References
Burt, R. (2014). Edublogs Teacher Challenges. Step1: What is a PLN? Retrieved from: http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/pln-challenge-1-what-the-heck-is-a-pln/

Byer, S. G., (2014). Web 2.0: The Influence of the Cloud in the 21st Century Classroom. In J. Aitken (Ed.), Cases on Communication Technology for Second Language Acquisition and Cultural Learning (pp. 58-70). Doi: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4482-3

Collis, B., & Moonen, J. (2002). Flexible Learning in a Digital World. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 17(3) 217-230 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0268051022000048228

Downes, S. (2011. Jan 06). ‘Connectivism’ and Connective knowledge. The Blog: Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/connectivism-and-connecti_b_804653.html?ir=Australia

DuCharme-Hansen, B. A., & Dupin-Bryant, P. A. (2005). Distance Education Plans: Course Planning for Online Adult Learners. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 49(2), 31-39.

Duffy, P., & Bruns, A. (2006). The use of blogs, wikis and RSS in education: A conversation of possibilities. Proceedings of the Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006, pp.31-38. Retrieved June 2015 from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/5398/1/5398.pdf

Garrett, P. (2008). Researching language socialisation. In K.King & N.Hornberger (Eds.) Encyclopedia of language and education: Research methods in language and education 10(2) 189-201.

Garrison, D.R., & Anderson, T. (2003). E-Learning in the 21st Century. A Framework for Research and Practice. Retrieved 2015 from: http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.usq.edu.au/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook/bmxlYmtfXzkzMTcyX19BTg2?sid=3dd0d918-b07b-45a8-9a51-cf773a06e539@sessionmgr112&vid=0&format=EB&rid=1

Guillén-Gámez F., García-Magariño L. (2015). A technique for designing glossary activities with facial authentication. Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society,11(1) 125-138. Retrieved from: http://je-lks.org/ojs/index.php/Je-LKS_EN/article/view/965/926

Goodyear, P. (2005). Educational design and networked learning: Patterns, pattern languages and design practice. Retrieved from: http://ajet.org.au/index.php/AJET/article/view/1344/714

Holmen, M. (2014. August 06). Education Versus Learning- What Exactly is the Difference? Ed Tech Review. Retrieved from: http://edtechreview.in/trends-insights/insights/1417-education-vs-learning-what-exactly-is-the-difference

Kligyte, G. (2009). Threshold concept: A lens for examining networked learning. Proceedings of the Ascilite 2009 Conference, Auckland, NZ (pp. 540–542)

Lewis, B. (2011). Why moving to a country may not lead to learning the language & what learners & expats can do. Fluent in 3 months. Retrieved 2015 from: http://www.fluentin3months.com/move-country/

Liddicoat, A.J., & Scarino, A. (2009). Teaching and Learning Languages, A Guide. Australian Government, Department of Education, Employment & Workplace Relations. Retrieved October 2015 from: http://www.tllg.unisa.edu.au

Marrone, M., Mantai, L., & Kalyuga, M., (2012). Designing an Online Activity for Collaborative Language Learning. In M. Brown, M. Hartnett & T. Stewart (Eds.) Proceedings ascilite Wellington 2012. (pp. 597-601). Retrieved from: http://www.ascilite.org/conferences/Wellington12/2012/images/custom/marrone,_mauricio_-_designing.pdf

Mezirow, J. (2009). Transformative Learning in Practice. Insights from community, workplace and higher education. Retrieved from: http://library.usq.edu.au/Record/vtls000682021

Mott, J. (2010). Envisioning the Post-LMS Era: The Open Learning Network. Educause Review. Retrieved from: http://er.educause.edu/articles/2010/3/envisioning-the-postlms-era-the-open-learning-network

Pelletieri, J. (2011). Measuring Language-Related Outcomes of Community-Based Learning in Intermediate Spanish Courses. Hispania 94(2) 285-302.

Pelz, B. (2004). Three Principles of Effective Online Pedagogy. JALN, 8(3) 33-46. Retrieved June 2015 from: https://www.ccri.edu/distancefaculty/pdfs/Online-Pedagogy-Pelz.pdf

Reushle, S. (2009). Guest Editor’s Introduction to Special Theme Issue: Online Pedagogy in Practice. International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning 5(3) 1-4. Retrieved from: http://www.eblib.com

Riel, M., & Polin, L. (2004). Online Learning Communities. Common Ground & Critical Differences. In S.A. Barab, R. Kling, & J. Gray (Eds.), Designing for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning, pp16-50. Cambridge.

Rourke, A.J & Coleman, K. (2011). Authentic Assessment in E-Learning. Reflective and Collaborative Writing in the Arts. In G.William, P.Stratham, N.Broom, & B.Clelands (Eds), Changing Demands, Changing Directions. Proceedings ascilite Hobart 2011. Retrieved June 2015 from: https://www.academia.edu/1070118/Authentic_assessment_in_elearning_Reflective_and_collaborative_writing_in_the_arts.

Ryman, S., Hardham, G., Richardson, B. & Ross, J. (2009). Creating and Sustaining Online Learning Communities: Designing for Transformative Learning. International Journal of Pedagogies & Learning, 5(3) 32-45.

Siemans, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from: http://er.dut.ac.za/bitstream/handle/123456789/69/Siemens_2005_Connectivism_A_learning_theory_for_the_digital_age.pdf?sequence=1

Thorne, S.L., Black, R.W., & Sykes, J.M. (2009). Second Language Use, Socialisation and Learning in Internet Interest Communities and Online Gaming. The Modern Language Journal 93(1) 802-821. Doi: 10/111/j.1540-4781.2009.00974

DBR- Peer Review

As I have been as always a little behind with this module, I decided that I would make use of a separate network I am a part of to ask for some help with my outlined plans for review as most people within this module had already finished their work whilst I was still going.

I used a Facebook group I had set up from a previous course studying Online Pedagogy to send a link to my very loose proposal outlined on Google Docs for review.

Thanks to the feedback from Charm (thank you!) and David from my proposed ideas, I was able to decide on exploring the use of NGL in my context as a tutor of L2 leaners.

David helpfully offered ideas that pointed me towards creating a community of learners for L2 using principles of NGL, whilst Charm helped me with suggestions of practical implications and considering ideas relating to accessibility of technology for setting up my proposal and how I would consider overcoming any issues that may arise.

My planned outline was one in which I would explore HOW NGL can be used to aid a community of learners in my context, and how key principles such as connections made between learners and resources can aid in language acquisition.

Key ideas underpinning my design/research were outlined as:

-NGL, Connectivism (Goodyear, Siemans, Downes)
-Community of learners- (Riel & Polin)
– Learning styles: collaboration, communicative, interactive, transformative
-LMS/PLN…
-Platforms- Moodle (LMS)
-Resources- wikis, forums, blogs, podcasts, bb collaborate, PLN sharing- feedly
-Digital Literacy
-L2 learning…

Initial research question- How will implementing NGL principles enhance L2 learning for IELTS students?

What I wanted to focus on was how learning in a face-to-face (FTF) environment could be enhanced by employing NGL principles to facilitate an online learning community/extension of our classroom ‘community.’

Link to Google Docs DBR proposal: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FDuPagJdNhla3801TT1_PWyjjv-dPWyoIoAvszlpP_c/edit

Link to FB page I set up for Online Pedagogy: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Online.Pedagogy/?ref=bookmarks

How NGL can inform my role as a teacher

How NGL can inform my role as a teacher

This has been the most difficult part of the assignment for me as I have been very unsure as to how to approach this for some time, I now believe that the reason for this was because I not only started the course late and therefore have been on a catch-up mission ever since I did begin, but it took a while for my time of ‘realisation’ to happen.

I have decided finally upon some possibilities, the first is to address my approach to NGL as a learner and ensure that I work on my professional development. As Rebecca also mentions, I have quite often approached previous courses by doing the readings, make the points in my assessments by following the rubric, and move on. I have realised since starting this course that this is not really how things should be, I may feel like I have learned something but I am not nurturing that knowledge. It has actually made me decide that I will be going back over my old course notes for the last two modules I completed and starting a new blog or e-portfolio which I will continue throughout the rest of my Masters and work towards developing new Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and connections through revising these topics. (Downes, 2007). This will cost me nothing but my time and it is worth re-doing things I could have gained so much more from had I had the understanding I now have. Something I am going to do to begin this is to join the educational community on Twitter, and to try out other educational networks I have recently heard of such as Classroom 2.0, and The Australian Flexible Learning Framework to begin with.

In the capacity of someone studying the principles of NGL, online pedagogy and instructional design whilst working towards my career as an Education Officer in Defence, I also believe that understanding and being able to apply these principles in my future career will be vitally important. Of particular interest to me, and something I have already begun to research in earlier modules is the struggle that Defence appears to face in implementing pedagogy with technology in its expansion into the Digital era.

The limitations are many, given that security is a significant issue and associated costs of securing information networks may prove to be astronomical, but the possibilities are endless when it comes to how learning and connecting could be revolutionised within Defence if NGL principles could be applied in the hierarchical organisation that is the ADF. As in teachfacilitatelearngrow’s post, the current role of NGL may appear to be limited in the ADF as it too may appear to be in the health system, but expansion into online learning has become a primary aim of the Education Corps as it seems to equally be expanding in health care.

Using an example of an online course recently implemented, I hope to be able to expand on this a little more. An example of a ‘breakthrough’ in online learning in Defence I have encountered, was when the content of an existing textbook was made available online as a series of static slide presentations with the ability for students to choose from a series of multiple choice answers within the text, below I use Puentedura’s SAMR model to illustrate:

S, A and M are already achieved in the simple changes made already, R is my proposal:

S-   The textbook is made available online, (substitution with technology).

  1. The written book is now available online and in the form of power point slides with audio (augmentation).

M- The online version has some interactivity in that students can answer multiple choice questions at the end of each unit of study (modification). There is no other interactivity, no scores are given, no student-student interaction, students work alone.

R- What I would propose using NGL principles to transform this situation is provide a way for students to interact together, allow for all students participating in the course to collaborate using a wiki, (redefinition).

Collaboration in this learning experience would be transformational, creating a platform that can embrace student-centred learning and connectivist principles (Downes, 2011). Not only is collaboration a key factor in online learning (Rourke & Coleman, 2011; DuCharme-Hansen & Dupin-Bryant, 2005) but it is also giving the students an opportunity to learn a new skill in embracing NGL for themselves and promote transformative learning (Reushle, 2010; Ryman et al., 2009). Another very important aspect of providing an online space such as this is giving participants the ability to be critically reflective, which is of vital importance to adult learning (Mezirow, 2009).

Another consideration I have made is in how I can apply NGL to my capacity as an educator right now. I tutor students who are studying English as a second language in preparation for taking their IELTS exams. I have been encouraging students to talk to one another and communicate using English as much as possible outside of our face-to-face classes too. Another task I set them is to listen to IELTS videos on you tube and prepare model answers for next time they come to class where we practise questions and answers based on those videos. I also direct them online to, or make my own, reading and listening tasks. All of our communication is via email or phone during the week between classes and I now know that being able to implement and encourage NGL principles to our teaching and learning would vastly improve the student’s language skills and ability to communicate. In being able to set up webinars, a course wiki or blog site, communication could be vastly improved and student learning enriched with little to no cost to achieve.

References

Downes, S. (2007). Learning Networks in Practice. NRC-CNRC. In Ley, D. (Ed). Emerging Technologies for Learning, 2007. Retrieved from: http://scholar.google.com.au/scholar_url?url=http://nparc.cisti-icist.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/npsi/ctrl%3Faction%3Drtdoc%26an%3D8913424&hl=en&sa=X&scisig=AAGBfm0Y-LNgELoZO6xFJfGo9fF63JoCdw&nossl=1&oi=scholarr&ved=0CBwQgAMoATAAahUKEwi6nNjMwJTIAhUGnJQKHbYIDE4

Downes, S. (2011. Jan 06). ‘Connectivism’ and Connective knowledge. The Blog: Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/connectivism-and-connecti_b_804653.html?ir=Australia

DuCharme-Hansen, B. A., & Dupin-Bryant, P. A. (2005). Distance Education Plans: Course Planning for Online Adult Learners. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 49(2), 31-39.

Duffy, P., & Bruns, A. (2006). The use of blogs, wikis and RSS in education: A conversation of possibilities. Proceedings of the Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006, pp.31-38. Retrieved from: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/5398/1/5398.pdf

Mezirow, J. (2009). Transformative Learning in Practice. Insights from community, workplace and higher education. Retrieved from: http://library.usq.edu.au/Record/vtls000682021

Reushle, S. (2009). Guest Editor’s Introduction to Special Theme Issue: Online Pedagogy in Practice. International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning 5(3) 1-4. Retrieved from: http://www.eblib.com

Rourke, A.J & Coleman, K. (2011). Authentic Assessment in E-Learning. Reflective and Collaborative Writing in the Arts. In G.William, P.Stratham, N.Broom, & B.Clelands (Eds), Changing Demands, Changing Directions. Proceedings ascilite Hobart 2011. Retrieved from: https://www.academia.edu/1070118/Authentic_assessment_in_elearning_Reflective_and_collaborative_writing_in_the_arts

Ryman, S., Hardham, G., Richardson, B. & Ross, J. (2009). Creating and Sustaining Online Learning Communities: Designing for Transformative Learning. International Journal of Pedagogies & Learning, 5(3) 32-45.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Retrieved from: http://usq.summon.serialssolutions.com/search?s.q=wiggins+and+mctighe+2005

As a student, NGL has been useful to me

As a student, NGL has been useful to me

In developing an awareness of NGL comes the confirmation that I have already been using a lot of what I am learning about in prior online education and using various learning platforms and networks in the process. This first assignment has been an eye-opener for me, although having begun as a latecomer to the course it has also been more than a little challenging and with a few bumps along the way in terms of me wondering if I have indeed been on the right track and also if I am doing enough to catch up.

From having recently studied online pedagogy and learning design I thought I understood the concept that online learning is much more than about applying technology to education, I realise that I now understand it even more, and wish that I had started all of my study by learning about NGL first! I feel I now understand what it means to successfully use it, despite having been using it for quite some time, mostly ineffectively! My understanding so far is that interactivity is the key to online learning (Pelz, 2004) and with that interaction comes a deeper learning experience (Rourke & Coleman, 2011). In order to facilitate this, learning has to become more learner-centred than instructivist (Reigeluth, 2012). Within NGL, an important part of the interactivity is that the correct connections are made and nurtured to facilitate learning (Siemans, 2005).

Digital Literacy plays a huge part in all of our online interactions, and yet I wonder just how aware we all are of the concept of digital literacy, which is outlined in the very short video above from Deakin University. Those of us who would most likely consider ourselves as digital natives (Selwyn, 2009) may not think too much about the literacy skills involved in simply communicating with others online. I have been made aware several times throughout my learning journey as a student of USQ online just how important digital literacy is from the viewpoint of safety, conscientiousness and effective learning. Having to turn on my filters as a part of my responsibility of being a digitally literate individual  is a concept made all the more relevant by Clay Shirky in his video on spam management.

I have also been able to practice skills in my ability to use online tools to manage information that I have never before used, such as Feedly and Diigo, as well as choosing content from others’ blogs to help me to develop my own meanings. Whilst it took me some time to get used to using these new tools, now that I have learned how to use them I will certainly be continuing to do so in the future. Learning to blog has also been a new experience for me, because although I have been assessed in my production of a blog before, it was not something I used in a fluid way, revisited or reflected on, but something that I created and submitted for assessment and did not share with other course participants. Studying NGL has for me, created an opportunity to reflect on what it is that I actually need to learn, exploring the concept of personal knowledge management (PKM) was the main way in which this came about. I wrote down (PKM-EDU8117) what I intended to do with my management of this course, using the Seek, Sense, Share framework (Jarche, 2014) and the reality is that it went exponentially differently to how I planned it, but the fact that I have been able to reflect on that is proof of how useful this process has been to me.

I have realised a few things about my learning style too, which I am not convinced is the correct way for me and although I still have a way to go in learning how to be a “better learner,” I am finding being able to have a space to write down thoughts, go away and think about them, re-read them and think about them again is so much more useful to me than writing notes on paper strewn around which become lost and forgotten. Blogging is an enormously efficient way to be able to access earlier ponderings and stretch possibilities in different directions on revisits. I have discovered a new way for me to actually be able to work on my bizarre ponderings and will continue to work in this manner. I was initially very hesitant about blogging and found it too difficult to do at first because my motivation was sitting a little below what it should thanks to feeling a little vulnerable in my inexperience and the fact that I was sharing in a public space.

Once I managed to get my head around the fact that I am just one of a network of others all working in the same arena, it became a little easier to write. I have studied enough theory to understand that collaboration is the key to successful online interaction, but putting this to practice in new environments that aren’t safely tucked into the course pages and moderated by the course facilitator proved to be quite the challenge again. Facing up to a lot of new things within this course was a scary prospect. As a self-criticism I have noted from my own participation in this course, I realised quite late on that I had become so consumed with feeling vulnerable about what to write in my own blog pages, that I was neglecting to communicate with others on theirs. I forgot some of the key principles of networked learning and of Connectivism which is to connect.  By becoming less consumed by trying to catch up on the course outline and writing my own blog, I would have made the process so much easier by focusing more on making connections with others within the group. Understanding NGL has absolutely changed the way in which I will approach learning in the future as a self-directed, lifelong learner (Steinbach, 2000).

A quote that struck me as I stumbled across it within Steinbach’s book was:

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists” -Eric Hoffer

References

Jarche, H. (2014. March 05). What is Your PKM Routine?  Retrieved from: http://jarche.com/2014/03/what-is-your-pkm-routine/

Pelz, B. (2004). Three Principles of Effective Online Pedagogy. JALN, 8(3) 33-46. Retrieved from: https://www.ccri.edu/distancefaculty/pdfs/Online-Pedagogy-Pelz.pdf

Reigeluth, C. (2012). Instructional Theory and Technology for the New Paradigm of Education. RED: Revista de Educacion a Distancia, 32(1) 1-18. Retrieved from: http://www.um.es/ead/red/32/reigeluth.pdf

Rourke, A.J., & Coleman, K. (2011). Authentic Assessment in E-Learning. Reflective and Collaborative Writing in The Arts. In G. William, P. Stratham, N. Broom & B. Clelands (Eds), Changing Demands, Changing Directions. Proceedings ascilite Hobart 2011, (pp. 1089-1095). Retrieved April 2015 from: https://www.academia.edu/1070118/Authentic_assessment_in_elearning_Reflective_and_collaborative_writing_in_the_arts

Selwyn, N. (2009). The Digital Native- Myth and Reality. Institute of Education, London, UK. Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives 61,4 DOI: 10.1108/00012530910973776. Retrieved from: http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~tefko/Courses/e553/Readings/Selwyn%20dig%20natives,%20Aslib%20Proceedings%202009.pdf

Siemans, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from: http://er.dut.ac.za/bitstream/handle/123456789/69/Siemens_2005_Connectivism_A_learning_theory_for_the_digital_age.pdf?sequence=1

Steinbach, R. (2000). Successful Lifelong Learning: Ten Tactics for Today and Tomorrow. Rev.Ed of The Adult Learner. Retrieved from: http://library.books24x7.com.ezproxy.usq.edu.au/assetviewer.aspx?bookid=2613&chunkid=883111908&rowid=3

As a learner, NGL has been useful to me

For the learning element of this task, I sought to master running skills that I have been wanting to accomplish for a long time. Specifically to be able to run 10K, as part of an overall goal of developing a healthier lifestyle and getting fitter.

In pursuing my goal and doing so in the context of NGL and using the principles of it to help me, I feel I now have opened up a whole new world of motivation that I did not have before I began this course.  I have realised firsthand the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation which I feel is an important factor of trying to marry NGL and formal learning which is something I will consider in more detail in my role as teacher.

In my learner task, I am now a part of certain networks of like-minded people who all share related aims and share their achievements which motivate me and others to keep working towards our goals. Applying the principles of NGL to my experience as a learner, I am chasing the actuation of a goal. My chosen goal is to run a 10k, and although I have had several disappointments along the way thanks to sickness issues or my husband being away from home that have hindered my training, I am all the more determined to succeed. Something I have found easy to do in this task is to network successfully in terms of being able to make connections with others in sharing our progress and tips. Some concepts of Connectivism outlined by Siemans (2005)

Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources

Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.

 have resonated with me particularly in this task and that of being a participant in EDU8117. The main difference I have noted from a personal point of view is that I have become a part of a large, and well-established community of runners who have all formed their network from personal interest and a diverse range of ability from expert to novice. As it is an informal environment, I feel more at ease, as Holmen (2014) writes in his blog, ‘ most of us intuitively feel that we learn best outside the formal system, throughout work and life.’ What is notably different in this network to that formed as part of EDU8117 is that our group/network EDU8117 is not one that has evolved organically, but is a part of a formal learning environment and I am well aware of that. Returning to my realisation of the differences in motivation, I feel it is maybe because of the fact that although I want to understand NGL personally, my main motivation for it is due to extrinsic motivation, because I have to prove that I understand it. I feel that I have to prove myself within that emerging and non-organic network that is EDU8117, and therefore feel vulnerable and less able to communicate as effectively. I find myself having to read, and re-read, and make comparisons with expert and established opinions before I feel comfortable with blogging my opinions, and even then I have been acutely aware of how uncomfortable I have felt at times.

What I struggled to understand earlier is that given that in both understanding NGL and running 10K, I consider myself at the level of novice, and yet in the running network, I felt more comfortable. What I now realise is that I am aware of others in that network who are experts, who have mastered much more than a 10K and whose expert opinion I can trust to get me to my goal. I am equally aware that although I am working with people who I admire and respect in EDU8117, we are all at a very similar level in our learning journeys and our course facilitator is not a part of the interaction in our blogging. From what I can gather about NGL, I can presume that due to this it feels as though EDU8117 is a group rather than a network. Within the group, as we are all so busy working on our own blogs and our own understandings, I have felt that communication between us has perhaps been a little weak at times perhaps due to the fact we are being forced to communicate with others studying the same topic as us (Anderson, 2008). I have stated in blogs prior to now that I have been frustrated with the fact that I have not given more time to interaction with others and less focus on trying to figure things out alone. I know that others (Alex, Charm and Murra Murra) have shared similar feelings.

I have been able to expand my grasp of new digital skills (Murray & Perez, 2014) in the forms of better using networks, and learning how to use new technology in the purchase of a Garmin running watch, which was recommended by other network participants, I have since used the watch, shared my success in running a 5K and am now set up with understanding new technology which will set me up for achieving my future goal. I now wonder if I will be able to go for a run again without using my new technology, or without in some way making a connection to the network to share my progress. Similarly, some of the skills in networking and operating online I have learned from being a student of NGL I know I will not be able to go back from and will adopt a new way of doing things from this point onwards as I have found them to be so useful. 

Blackhall, 2007 & Siemans 2005 (as cited in Kligyte 2009), reflect upon NGL and connectivism as the ability of learners to access endless sources of information, build relationships and collaborate to build knowledge outside of formal educational environments. This more than sums up my experience as a learner, I have chosen from a wealth of available online sources to help me in my quest to be a better runner and a healthier individual. I have been able to collaborate in terms of sharing and being a part of others’ journeys and provide and receive feedback and motivation to those who have similar aims. I don’t feel I have become a running expert overnight but I have become aware of techniques to help me in my training and technology that is useful in helping me to stay motivated. It has been an overwhelmingly positive experience in many ways, and physical frustrations I know I can overcome whereas cognitive frustrations in understanding NGL during my time on the course proved to be a little overwhelming in a negative way by comparison at first. Thankfully I feel that I have come out of this module so far with a lot more knowledge than I had even a week ago and am looking forward to what is still to come.

References

Anderson, T. (2008. March 17). Networks Versus Groups in Higher Education. Virtual Canuck: Teaching and Learning in a Net-Centric World. Retrieved from: http://terrya.edublogs.org/2008/03/17/networks-versus-groups-in-higher-education/

Holmen, M. (2014. August 06). Education Versus Learning- What Exactly is the Difference? Ed Tech Review. Retrieved from: http://edtechreview.in/trends-insights/insights/1417-education-vs-learning-what-exactly-is-the-difference

Kligyte, G. (2009). Threshold concept: A lens for examining networked learning. Proceedings of the Ascilite 2009 Conference, Auckland, NZ  (pp. 540–542)

Murray, M. C., & Pérez, J. (2014). Unravelling the Digital Literacy Paradox: How Higher Education Fails at the Fourth Literacy. Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology 11,85-100 Retrieved from: http://iisit.org/Vol11/IISITv11p085-100Murray0507.pdf

Siemans, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from: http://er.dut.ac.za/bitstream/handle/123456789/69/Siemens_2005_Connectivism_A_learning_theory_for_the_digital_age.pdf?sequence=1

Anxiety…Exploring, conquering and belonging…

I have just been reading Alex’s post: Why So Anxious? and realised that this feeling of anxiety has come around again like a wave as it did when I first set eyes upon the USQ homepage and read that we would be working elsewhere! That feeling of my comfort blanket being snatched away was about the best way to describe it! Something new and unknown… *insert feelings of mild dread.* The anxiety this time is because there is now a deadline looming and have I learned enough?

I have kind of mentioned this in a recent post, but I think that this feeling of anxiety in approaching something new is something that we all need from time to time because it is in our nature to explore and conquer new things. This is a somewhat tenuous link most likely, but my girls love to watch a show called Horrible Histories and they ask me questions like- “who ever thought up the idea of flying in a plane?” I often sit and marvel at the achievements of historical innovators and the fact that they were quite often not taken seriously in the time before they did actually produce something successful. When my girls ask me why, all I can say is because it is in the nature of humans to make things better, to explore new things and to try new things. What does this have to do with NGL?!! Whilst I have been looking into my learning goal in relation to NGL, I have learned about what kind of 1km pace to set myself, what time/km ratios are acceptable for me and how to use a Garmin watch. None of these are things I ever thought about before I started this task.

mountain-climbing-2

No I am not building any Pyramids but I am exploring and chasing a goal, I am bettering my running ability and improving my digital literacy and learning how to use new technology (the watch) in the process! I am bettering my ability to work online in communicating with others and learning about other people in the process. It is pretty amazing really!

One thing I find is definitely a help to me in this process is feedback from other networkers, and the realisation that I should be giving regular feedback too. Using Facebook as an example, we post things on there because we want to share something, but we also want to get some feedback from it, whether this is from ‘likes’ or comments, we want others to acknowledge our thoughts.

It is all very well to be part of a network, but I am finding communication is the real key in motivator in making it work for me. Being a silent/invisible participant in a network may be how some people prefer to do things- I am interested in who feels the same/differently to me about this? 🙂

An observation of the online vs real world…

Whilst using online networks for my running and fitness goals to be met, I have also observed something today which seemed worthy of mentioning in the context of NGL and which fits in to what most of us probably already know and feel about online communication vs real-life communication.

Another member of the online running community RMA posted today about how she is going to leave the FB group and community after an unpleasant face-to-face encounter with two women she saw recently at a race event in the RMA tent set up there.

Apparently the lady approached the two women dressed in RMA merchandise and was looked at in a derogatory manner and then ignored, despite the fact she too was wearing RMA clothing. She left feeling humiliated and upset and has since posted about how she feels let down and does not want to be part of the community any longer.

Opinions expressed by others on her post ranged from gently telling her maybe she was being a little sensitive, to the fact that in a community with thousands of members, there are bound to be bitches in it and she may have been unlucky enough to have met two of them! Another opinion was that maybe people are happy to be supportive online but when it comes to reality, people just may not be as friendly with others they have never met before and maybe the two knew one another but because they did not know her were not as open to wanting to talk.

Whilst the actual issue in itself was probably something and nothing and to be honest not the type of thing I want to comment on, the issue that struck me was the fact that a negative encounter with two unknown individuals in a face to face setting can, in someone’s opinion, undermine an entire network of thousands who largely show support to one another online.

Are our online personalities really so different to face-to-face personalities? Have we become more comfortable communicating online, and less capable of face-to-face interactions? Does this mean we are losing something as humans?!! I know these ponderings may sound dramatic but it does make me think that online communication and further growth in online learning and education may both provide connections but eradicate physical connectedness in the future. I wish I could see now what the world will be like in 25 years…50 years. I think it will either have become unrecognisable and completely overtaken by technology or we will have a reality check at some point and slow it down…

Oh help…! Panic beginning to set in!

I couldn’t help but feel a little panicked today when I realised my progress on this course is just not going the way I wanted it to. I know I am not alone as both Murra Murra’s blog post and Charmed Learning’s post have also expressed similar feelings.

I admit, I am finding it really quite difficult to do this…I am a (very) regular Facebook user and find posting and commenting on other’s posts comes as second nature… So why am I finding myself so out of my comfort zone right now? I am unsure as to whether I am struggling with the time it takes me to read posts, or whether it is because I am feeling aware of the fact that this is for an educational course and I should be doing so much better than I am.

I think it is making me realise a few things about me as both a learner and a student and that is that I spend too much time procrastinating and too much time trying to read and back up my ideas before I feel confident enough to get them written down!

I feel that I haven’t really had enough time to catch up on this course after my late start. Now I don’t really believe that is the case, it is just that I haven’t managed to effectively streamline my skills as a learner yet to enable me to work more efficiently. This is something I really have to address. And I am going to address it now whilst I have one more working week to get my act together and start producing some results. I think the biggest realisation today is that it is not the fact that I may well fail this assignment thanks to my snail pace but the fact that what I am getting out of it on a personal level is going to be so much less than it could be if I do not make more effort. I am so wrapped up in what to write that I am missing the bigger picture which is to make more connections with others doing the same thing. I guess I haven’t really figured out how to tackle getting my head around all of the new things in this course yet. My efforts need to be in commenting on other’s blogs and just writing more myself instead of feeling too afraid to just write! So, here I go, I am hoping this new philosophy pays off and if too late for this assignment, at least will benefit me in the next one and in other courses too!

Networks/Groups/Collectives/Connectives…?

chaos_theoryI thought this photo from Google Images seemed a pretty accurate depiction of how my mind feels right now, lots of light sparks, going around in circles and dead-ends!!

Lately I have been considering what it is that makes us a network, which is what I feel we are at the moment…I think. I saw this pretty legendary concept map by Downes in the EDU8117 course material:Downes' concept map

My first thought upon reading this was is this process always one-way? The ? next to the ‘post group organisation’ on the board seems to hint this too. I think it is fair to say that it is entirely possible that individuals operating within a network may end up closing in on some others who share their ideas or interests and from there develop their own group? And from there does that then become another network as it grows? I have been chasing this thought for a little while! We seem to operate online in one of the following categories: a network, a group, or a collective…My thought was, could we taking part in EDU8117 call ourselves a ‘connective’ by definition of Connectivism? We are all sharing thoughts based on a topic but may all have entirely different views and may not even share common interests but in a way we are all connecting our ideas to that topic? Or is this a network? Or a group?! Anderson (2008) highlights some of the issues in his writing on Networks Versus Groups in Higher Education:

…groups are most associated with locally bound communities in which relationship evolves through proximity – even in the absence of choice. We are forced to interact with those we live, work and attend class with regardless of any affection or interest. Distributed networks, of course, eliminate this constraint and allow us to form both networks and groups with people who may be very widely physically distributed.
Beyond physical proximity, networks are supportive of the creation of weak bonds (Granovetter, 1973) that serve as bridging connections to other groups and networks. Networks often have higher percentages of weak ties

From having been ‘forced’ into interaction from our chosen University module, have we then become a network with weak bonds, or are we inbetweeners- something between a group/network and a collective? This diagram also made me consider there may be room for development in these theories when addressing HE courses because we are currently a group in terms of ‘conscious membership’ and time limited, a network in terms of shared interest and activity ebbs and flows and a collective in terms of data mining.

Dron and Anderson 2007 Taxonomy of the Many

References:

Anderson, T. (2008. March 17). Networks Versus Groups in Higher Education. Virtual Canuck: Teaching and Learning in a Net-Centirc World. Retrieved from: http://terrya.edublogs.org/2008/03/17/networks-versus-groups-in-higher-education/

Another progress update!

I decided in the course of my challenge that I would consult my networks on some specific tips on how to achieve my goals. I know to actually stay motivated I have to have something tangible to work on, not just measure a rough distance on a map and go for it. So I followed the advice of the Running Mums network and got myself a Garmin running watch. I have never owned anything like this before in my life (great…more new technology to figure out…) Anyway, I bought one, figured out how to use it, wore it and went out for a run! I was very happy with the result of the run as my goal has been to achieve a 5k in under 30 minutes by the end of the year (a separate, although also linked goal to enduring a 10k). The result of the advice, the sharing and now the reflection of this is that I am feeling totally inspired to do bigger and better things with my running and the purchase of this watch has started something new for me. The fact that sharing my experience has resulted in encouragement and kind words from absolute strangers showing an interest in the same things as me is pretty inspiring too!

I know Facebook “likes” are something seen with deep scepticism by many who believe they merely facilitate half-hearted communication, but when operating within this type of community on a platform like Facebook, it is hard not to be heartened by how many people have taken notice of an achievement of yours, even if just to “like” it. On the same post were some lovely words of encouragement but for privacy’s sake I thought it best not to show those.

First recorded run