Do Connected Courses Connect?

connectIt has been a long time since I posted here. A really long time.

Ok, to be fair, most of the Tweets I do every day (yes, every day) are archived here; they just do not appear on the home page. Nevertheless, I have not developed or shared or expressed any of my thinking here in some time, oddly enough since I completed my doctoral work.

Yes, I am busy. Who is not? I feel pulled in more directions than I can count due to my full-time work as a project manager in healthcare, an adjunct professor teaching graduate research, and hobby engaging in research on how people develop their identity and self-expression through troublesome thresholds concept experiences, especially related to social media and online networks.

Do I have time to blog? Enough to say that could not be better stated in 140 characters? Only time will tell, but with so many interesting people here who are already sharing, supporting, and engaging in research in this area, it is time for me to more explicitly engage in this community and see what I can learn along the way that will improve my teaching, research, work, and overall satisfaction thinking about and implementing stronger connections and networks.

Why not explore all of this with others who are looking at ways of connecting open resources through the Connected Courses community and Fall 2014 experience? This experience has been described as:

Connected Courses is a collaborative community of faculty in higher education developing networked, open courses that embody the principles of connected learning and the values of the open web.

So, here we go!

Making Sense of Complexity – Engaging Others in #change11

I just attended an interesting webinar that George Siemens facilitated during an Open Access Week session at Athabasca, Making Sense of Complexity in Open Information Environments. While his work got increasingly theoretical, there is one thing he mentioned that caused me to stop and think about my current involvement in #change11, the MOOC that I have been discussing for a few weeks now.

In this iteration of a massive open online course, there is not an established form of scaffolding for participant focus (there is not a central Moodle platform, or course home where we all come to gather around). Instead, we blog or Tweet or whatever as we work through the course, and we are encouraged (invited? forced?) to devise our own mechanisms for processing and engaging with our content. I have decided to use my blog and Twitter to process this experience and what I learn in it, and while this generally works for me, it also relates to some ideas that Dave Cormier mentioned in his post earlier this week, and which we developed a little more in George’s webinar today. All this freedom comes at a cost — I am continually struggling to address my 3rd course goal, Revise my network to be wider and more inclusive. Without a central focus or location, it can be quite a challenge to develop a sense of community, or networked learning perspective. Yes, I am begining to comment on more blogs of other participants, as well as increase my Tweeting, though I am still struggling to be able to connect with others in more than a passing way.

While I prefer online communication as a mode of social connection, I am increasingly disoriented by the sheer scope of participation in the MOOC, and thus am really struggling to find a small (or any!) social connections of more than a passing or very focused interest. I know, this certainly does not happen naturally in a centralized course location, though it is an Internet-sized challenge to find this in the wider Web. Yes, it is relatively easy to locate Tweets and blogs and such through the use of the #change11 tag, but even with all that information, it is still a challenge to navigate through everything.

As networked learning is something that is increasingly important in my thinking, I am hoping that some of my efforts in this area will begin to develop in some way. I am reminded of what Dave said:

I’ve also had a difficult time trying to track the responses to the given weeks

and this for me resonated.

I really like the openness and ability to process our thinking in our own ways, though echoing Dave’s comment, finding the information can be a challenge, and then engaging around it enough that community begins to develop, even in small ways (once again, as George hinted at in the webinar today). Somehow, I have not located any of this yet, and while I will put more effort into my processes, I am increasingly recognizing that my goal #3 is very important for my sustained involvement.

I wonder if a sense of community or belonging or valuing plays a role in any online endeavor, especially a 35 week one where we develop and monitor and work toward our own goals?

Hot Seat Discussions (Oct 10) – 8th International Conference on Networked Learning

The Hot Seats, an informal and free series of online discussions by international researchers in the area of networked learning, are about to begin next Monday, October 10.

This is a lead-in to the 8th International Conference on Networked Learning, scheduled for Maastricht in April 2012. Participation in these online discussions, based around the research of a number of very interesting scholars and led by the authors themselves, is open to anybody; conference registration is not required.

Hope to see some of my colleagues discussing these topics online.

Call for Papers: Networked Learning Conference 2012

Happy to see that the call for papers for the 8th International Networked Learning Conference 2012 was just announced. I attended this conference in 2010 in Denmark, and hope to be able to attend this again from 2-4 April 2012 in Maastricht, the Netherlands. If this will be anything like the last conference, it will be a tremendous experience.

While I do not usually promote conferences before I have anything accepted for them, I am doing so here because this is such a wonderful conference that I think may benefit more than that specific group that tends to already know about it. I think it needs a wider audience (i.e., from the US, Canada, and Australia), and hope this little post can help that along.

Did I mention that two scholars whose work has greatly influenced my own research will be speaking — Etienne Wenger and Tara Fenwick!

Networked Learning Conference Take-Aways

Almost a week has passed since the 7th International Networked Learning Conference, and I find that I am beginning to make sense and process my experience. There are 3 items I have so far been able to process:

  1. There is a lot of research still to be done in the area of (virtual / digital) identity development and how that relates to communties of practice, which is something I will continue to explore as I approach my doctoral research proposal. The paper I presented, Autoethnographer Communities of Practice, is here until they make it available on the website, and I am planning to take some of the comments I received, as well as what I learned, and continue to develop these ideas.
  2. The area of Networked Learning is still under development, which is clear from Grainne Conole’s work in the Hot Seat before the event (her white paper is here), as well as her ongoing work and comments through the conference.  She quoted Goodyear, Banks, Hodgson & McConnell (2004) for a working definition of Networked Learning — learning in which ICT is used to promote connections: between one learner and other learners; between learners and tutors; between a learning community and its learning resources. As this is somewhat different than a traditional educational technology or learning technology program / usage (at least in the US), and as it is the focus of my eTEL program at Lancaster University, I see a tremendous amount of research opportunities here. These connections flow naturally with Wenger‘s work in Communities of Practice, and with my interests in making sense of our experiences, I see a lot of work and exploration ahead.
  3. Part of this networked learning involves working with the network of researchers and learners, and maintaining some of the wonderful connections I have made is the next tangible step I plan to do.

What a great conference. Interesting that I have not found anything like this in the US; glad I realized at this point in my studies and research that there is an entire world or scholarship on practice out there, and as networks have no borders, neither should I.

Networked Learning Conference 2010 ~ Preconference Online Hot Seats

Anybody out there planning to attend the Networked Learning Conference in May of 2010 in Aalborg, Denmark? If so, you may find the Hot Seats that just began an interesting way to engage in discussion and get the juices flowing prior to the conference. The first one, facilitated by Caroline Haythornthwaite on Learning Networks, is about to begin.

networked learning conference

BTW, the call for papers is available here. Yes, I am planning to submit!

PhD Process Reflections

I have received such helpful feedback based on my posting yesterday, “Reflective Journal for My Doctoral Studies – Do It Online?,” that I think I shall begin, somewhat carefully, sharing my daily thoughts about my journey through the process (or at least the current module). I will try to do this with political care (not mentioning colleagues by name, not giving away everything in the program, etc.) that will focus on my own developing thoughts in this process, rather than the process itself.

Of course, writing as if some of this can be considered independently is ridiculous; that is one of the things I am noticing based on our intense reading of some of Wenger and Lave’s earlier works around social learning / networked learning / communities of practice. In some ways this all makes a lot of sense, in that the very process of thinking about even writing about this publicly, with my own community’s feedback and guidance, is part of the process itself.