The truth is that we all build personal learning networks all the time, but we don’t necessarily think about them in terms of formal education. We look up recipes online, we crowdsource ideas for what movies to go see, we search the most common hashtags on Twitter. Even in a traditional classroom setting, we often look around to see if other people look as confused as we feel. Learning is social, and the question becomes how we can find more formal uses for our informal learning solutions. On this week’s websites and podcasts, there are many examples of multimedia enhancing learning opportunities, sometimes as simply as just providing inspiration and motivation. The “A Vision of Students Today” video and the introductory video for the World Simulation Project clearly are meant to be thought-provoking and to get students to think differently about their assumptions about the world and, by extension, how they learn about the world and interact within its social constructs. “The networked society that we live in today may feel radically different, but many youth are struggling with the things they’ve always struggled with. They’re trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the bigger world” (Boyd, 2012). They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that is never more true than when applying multimedia to learning situations. Connecting personal learning experiences with relevant media makes learning that much more memorable and powerful.
Part of the problem with trying to fit new learning models that fit more styles of learning into standardized testing regimens is that these new learning efforts are inherently non-standardized. “Learning networks are not a one size-fits-all solution that works for each school in the same way. Quite the contrary, one of the reasons these tools are so powerful is their ability to serve a variety of goals” (Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011, p.27). If we concern ourselves with Richardson and Mancabelli’s new literacies in order to embrace new technologies, then we have to find a way to think about bigger issues than just whether or not our students can connect with a global audience, for example. For me, the biggest question is teaching our students how to ethically interact with information and information sources, and in a PLN structure, one of those potential information sources is the people we encounter on the Internet. We have to be proactive about anonymity and the problems that a perceived lack of accountability can mean on personal interactions. If we are going to build PLNs, then there has to be a responsibility of honesty and respect throughout the network. There needs to be a cultural shift, and we need to be willing to ask hard questions about assumptions that we take for granted.
The power of personal learning networks (PLNs) is shown in these personal examples, Reflections on Edtech blog and SoMe My Social Media Story, whereby each had a question while preparing for an urgent presentation or research paper. They asked and to their surprise, the Twitter network of people responded to their questions. This is the first time I ‘see’ the power of the PLN. Compelling as it is, I am still uncomfortable about ‘asking’ a network of people I do not know. When I am on duty as a Twitter Ambassador for our department, I sometimes get followers I do not know and become nervous about who is following especially if it is not an organization such as ASCD, Blackboard, Google Apps, etc. Richardson and Mancabelli quoted “To me [Pam Moran], the most powerful aspect of what’s happening right now is this potential for learning that we haven’t even begun to appreciate yet…” in their 2011 book, PLNs: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education. So what were the fundamental shifts in technology that fuelled this capacity to connect, interact, and learn with others in these new and different ways?
Richardson and Mancabelli cited from Wiley (2008) a summary of six significant shifts that support connection and network building: Analog to digital; Tethered to mobile; Isolated to (decidedly) connected; Generic to personal; Consumption (of information) to creation (of knowledge); and Closed to open systems. These shifts have huge implications for educators, and schools that were built on the assumption that knowledge and teachers are scarce. Bill Sterrett aptly responded “Moran and other tech savvy leaders believe it vital to help our students and staffs use technology effectively– not for technology’s sake but for learning’s sake.” Here is a blog article on 8 Steps of Leading Learning Forward: A Case Study of Pam Moran’s Educational Leadership.
What stood out to me in Danah Boyd’s blog is ‘public-ness’ and the “unexpected and invisible audiences,” as I recall in 2011 when Sunday School for elementary levels were reminded to be very careful if they were using Twitter. At that time there was a case (beyond our shores) whereby a young girl was “followed” by an adult guy from online to physical connection. That intro to social media left a very negative impression on me until my current job exposed me to the educational use of social media. One Singapore example “The lessons of tweeting; learning from social media” as it is used in a ‘future school’.
Cyber wellness is an issue that schools have to address for stakeholders to have a peace of mind in social-media based learning. One of the middle schools (320-strong cohort) in Singapore launched a program to help elementary school children handle online issues. There is also a Cyber Wellness Student Ambassador Programme which trains more than 1,400 students on using information and communications technology positively and responsibly.
- What types of trends do you see in the ways audio and still/video media are being used to support learning?
The shifts that Wiley described as happening because of web and mobile technologies illustrate the trends in how multimedia is being used to support learning. We are moving from analog to digital, we are no longer tethered and free to be mobile, we can come out of isolation and connect with others, things are becoming more personal, we are making more of our own stuff and we are doing it openly. One thing remains the same though, learning both online and offline is still social. Utilizing multimedia to learn and to teach just keeps the process alive, agile and more interactive.
- Specifically, how do you see these media enhancing participatory learning within the Web 2.0 context beyond that possible by text media?
Students are changing from consumers only to also being creators and need an outlet to reflect and react to the information being presented to them. As a teaching tool, a collection of videos allow us to create our own global classroom with many teachers. This makes for a much more “customized” learning experience. Learning is no longer an event and instead a ongoing process and the ability to learn how to learn is becoming more and more important every day.
- Richardson & Mancabelli describe six new literacies for 21st century learning environments. Which of the six measure of literacy do you see as the most challenging? Why? Are there any you would add?
The literacy that Richardson & Mancabelli list that I find to be most challenging would have to be “Attending tot he ethical responsibilities requested by these complex environments.” I’m thinking mostly about the accessibility of these tools and online environments. I’ve spent the last couple of months researching and identifying a web-based video editing platform that my students could potentially use for group class projects. The challenge comes in when I try to think about how a student with a disability could have the same learning experience as the other students in the class. These tools, while they are really good at bringing students together, can also make it harder for students to connect at the same time.
The one thing that I see missing assessing the tools themselves in an educational context. To me this is a whole new level of understanding the needs of the students, the capabilities of the tool and whether or not that tool directly addressing those identified needs. I think this is an incredibly important literacy to have considering the frequency of new tools coming on the market. Becoming more efficient in assessing the tools usefulness will allow us to move on the next solution or problem more quickly.
Teachers today need to rethink what teaching looks like within the four walls of their classroom. I believe that the article by Richardson & Mancabelli clearly states that today’s classrooms should be driven by a host of teachers from around the world instead of one sole instructor lecturing to the class. At first, I was a little taken back from the idea that “teachers are no longer needed” which was the impression I got from the start of the article. However, after further reading, I liked that they pointed out the need of teachers to still be facilitators and coaches to their students in the educational journey involving technology.
When creating communities of learners centered on specific topics and trends, the learner becomes more engaged in their learning and tends to produce higher level thinking throughout the process of learning. This is a very important concept to consider when thinking about the benefits of including audio and still/video media into the classroom. Learners in these types of settings become more motivated to learn. Although the focus may be on one primary interest, the cross-curricular learning that is happening simultaneously is an example of how important this “new” style of teaching can occur in classrooms today where standardized testing, scores, and curricular goals and standards are overly stressed.
I feel that these tools allow users to communicate freely and openly in a safe environment with other interested learners and experts in a realm that would normally not occur. The power of communication and collaboration when deriving meaning from a self-initiated interest will help to facilitate a community of learners seeking answers to less commonly asked questions. The engagement of student learning would be at a heightened level. I know from my personal experience in college, I often took my laptop to class only to check facebook or chat on instant messenger with friends. I was disengaged and not interested in the elective courses I was in. I learned and read websites that interested me. Allowing students to use these tools in today’s classroom should not be an option, it should be a requirement.
Out of the six measures of literacy provided by Richardson and Mancabelli, I believe number 2, “Building relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally” would be the most challenging. The importance of teaching our students who you can trust is a large portion of the success of this learning approach. We need to teach our students how to determine reasonable and reliable resources and information. We need to model and monitor appropriate interaction and teach our students how to learn who they can trust and believe when working collaboratively.
The Digital Ethnography site was very interesting to me not only because the content was relatable and interesting, but due to the concept of using the site as a means for sharing students’ work and learning with an audience. “Going public” is an important final step in the learning process which is often overlooked and underrated. It is imperative that students have the opportunity to share their learning and publicly reflect on the learning process. Digital Ethnology is definitely a site that I will follow to see updates on this professor’s class as they learn about the human natures.
The students who created the videos on Digital Ethnography were motivated to learn and create compelling presentations for the information they learned in their various projects. When students have a clear end goal in mind, they will, far more often than not, achieve their goal no matter what. When students create sites such as the sites we looked at this week, outsiders can peruse the information in search of anything in which they are interested. Informally, many people learn information and skills through podcasts such as the Teaching with Technology podcasts. These types of websites sharing expert-created media allow learning to easily happen in many directions.
Continual partial attention, a term with which Linda Stone has begun using, was a very interesting concept as it was something to which I was able to easily relate. As an Apple user playing a hundred or better roles in many different facets of my life, I find it very difficult to make time to deeply pay attention to any one thing. Between my computer, iPad, and iPhone, there is always some form of information coming through these synced devices, and I am constantly caught in the middle deciding which is most important and how to prioritize all of my responsibilities.