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Personal learning networks

In Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment the authors mention the theory of connectivism proposed by Siemens in 2005. This perspective describes my own learning experience for the last ten years perfectly. Let me explain why:

As mentioned in my previous posts, I’ve been a teacher for 17 years and during that time I’ve spent a lot of time online. In the beginning it was mostly about making my work available for students and their parents, but as social media platforms like Facebook gained in popularity I began using them to find other teachers that I could learn from. Some of them were not even aware that they were part of my personal learning environment, and some of them I’ve even met in person. The thing that has been most fruitful in terms of personal learning network for me has been facebook groups. I join groups that are focusing on the topics I want to learn more about or discuss, and in there I can share my thoughts and ideas and get inspired by others. Now, when moving from school to corporate environment, I have started to use LinkedIn a bit more, but I still rely on Facebook for getting help or support when I encounter a problem while producing e-learning.

For me, establishing a new personal learning network in my new corporate context has been a bit of a challenge. It seems people were more willing to share and help others in my teacher networks. Maybe there is a higher sense of competition in the corporate world?

LinkedIn is not as easy as facebook when it comes to groups, I know there are groups on LinkedIn as well and I am part of some of them, but they doesn't seem to be very active. People on LinkedIn seem less inclined to ask for help, maybe because it's also a channel for displaying your competence and in asking for help you sort of show off your cracks in that competence facade. I have a few people I follow that post really interesting and helpful posts, but other than that my LinkedIn feed looks more like a place for people to market themselves. I also know that in social media peoples activity is often based on copying how other post, so if I want to change the way my feed looks, one way is to start using LinkedIn in a different way. If I'm lucky, people will follow.

One of my go-to networks is Articulate E-learning heroes, which is a community with Articulate users. People are always helpful over there, and provide quick support and helpful tips.

Our ONL group has been less of a learning network than I'd hoped for. Maybe that is because we've had limited time during online meetings and had to focus on solving the problem, and we didn't use the activity stream enough. I also think the limited time scope made people less inclined to ask questions about things they didn't understand or wanted to discuss, possibly because one didn't want to seem stupid or take up important group time with things one thought everyone else already got?

When it comes to establishing an environment in which online collaborative learning can take place I agree with what D.R. Garrison writes in Online Collaboration Principles: Establishing trust between the participants and making sure they get to know each other is key. Without a climate of trust and belonging collaborative learning will be hard.

How to achieve this is not obvious, however. People are different, and as we discussed in one of our online meetings during this topic, we feel differently about meeting "face to face" in an online setting. Some people feel that it's easier to collaborate if they see each other while getting to know one another, and others, such as myself, feel more secure when getting to know people in writing instead of speaking face to face. For me, it would have been easier to feel secure in the group if I had the chance to get to know people through the activity stream at first, learning more about who they are as human beings, their interests and hobbies. As Garrison puts it: "A face-to-face environment can have a dampening effect on critical discourse and create an environment of “pathological politeness”" I think this happened in our group, in some aspects.

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