Richardson and Mancabelli define learning networks as “the rich set of connections each of us can make to people, in both our online and offline worlds, who can help us with our learning pursuits..” and we all agree. Learning is social, and Karen suggest that the question to ask is – how can we find more formal uses for our informal learning solutions. Rachel noted R&M’s distinction between social networks, viz people we know and interact with (e.g. on Facebook), and that of learning networks (e.g. Twitter) where connections are made with people we don’t already know – strangers we connect with for the key purpose of learning.
On the use of audio and video media to support learning, Eunsung sees an upward trend as these learning objects reflect experiences in authentic situations, compared to text-based learning which is less engaging/alive. Compared to traditional classes she finds that online courses with Web 2.0 affordances and different A/V media provide more peer and instructor interactions which satisfies her learning needs. Similarly, both Karen and Shelby agree that connecting personal learning experiences with relevant media makes learning much more meaningful, hence memorable and powerful. Shelby added that these resources can be used as instructional aids to reteach students who don’t understand the material or who missed a class. They can be used as inspiration, vocabulary building, as a “hook” to a lesson, for comprehension, student projects, etc. Shelby believes that videos can foster student creativity above what text media could.
According to Richardson & Mancabelli, for students to participate fully in the networked spaces (PLNs) they will need new skills and literacies for this 21st century learning environments. Of the six new literacies listed, Eunsung felt that #3 “designing and sharing information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes” is the most challenging as this skill requires one to have broad/global perspectives and more effort to develop for multiple goals. A case in point, the high quality MOOC courses which are mostly offered by American universities, would require that participants from different cultures learn to assimilate and share ideas, to navigate the LMS technologies, and that the course design serves multiple learning styles for different learning scenarios.
Shelby finds #4 “managing, analyzing, and synthesizing multiple streams of simultaneous information” to be the most challenging as combining various streams of information into one thoughtful and organized whole is a difficult task. She feels that what is learned through this course would help tremendously in mitigating that challenge. “Learning is extremely social as we read, filter, create, and share with one another on an ongoing basis” – Shelby noted that the operative word is filter.
Both Karen and Rachel identified #6 “attending to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex [PLN] environments” as the most challenging. Karen feels strongly that we have to be proactive about anonymity and the problems that a perceived lack of accountability can mean on personal interactions with a global audience. She argues that if we are going to build PLNs, then there has to be a responsibility of honesty and respect throughout the network. Clearly there needs to be a cultural shift, and we need to be willing to ask hard questions about assumptions that we take for granted. Cyber wellness is an issue that Singapore schools are addressing. Karen finds the term ‘cyber wellness’ a valuable addition to the concepts of information literacy.
Overall, we appreciate the quality resources provided for this week’s topic on learning networks and the insights gained. From the readings and videos, Shelby found these to be most worthwhile:
- Understanding the Power of PLNs. Richardson & Mancabelli highlight two game-changing conditions. With internet access… (1) we now have two billion potential teachers and (2) the sum of human knowledge will be at our fingertips.
- “Right now, we can be intellectually close to people who are three thousand miles away, while in the same respect, we may be far away from those sitting right next to us”
- Teaching with Technology Podcast: The Kindergarten Achievement Gap, Creating Video Clips (under Media category), Educating Parents about Digital Communication, and Five Tips for a Class Web Site.