Online Learning Communities

This week, our reading by Riel and Polin (2004), focus on Online Learning Communities and discusses the various types of learning communities and the community dimensions associated with it.  To summarise it briefly, I have created this image to explain:

In my opinion, our little group of NGL members are a task-based community of learning, as we’re all working towards a common goal – which is to complete another unit towards our degrees. However, Riel and Polin (2004) defines the membership as one where members knows each other, and since we’re all online students, we actually don’t personally know each other – more a case of we know about each other. So, while our group within NGL fit the description for task-based, we also fit the description for practice-based, in that we don’t know each other personally but we are all seeking to become more experienced within our chosen professions. My fellow NGL group member Samanthi, place our group somewhere within a Practice-based and Knowledge-based community, as she views our connection to be strongly linked to our professions.

For my learning activity, I have chosen to learn more about Second Life, as I have mentioned in my previous post. Second Life is a 3D virtual world that are already been utilised by various organisations for online collaboration, networking and training spaces.  As a librarian, I am curious as to how Second Life can be used to promote digital collections, and upon researching, I have found that various libraries already exist within Second Life.

As we are looking at CLEM (community, literature, examples, models) this week, I conclude that learning more about Second Life and 3D virtual learning spaces fit this description I have created:

CLEM :

C: I have found a Google+ community (Seanchai Libraries) and an education Wiki that has been created to support people learning/working with Second Life.

L: The blogs is more extensions of the wiki page but several excellent peer-reviewed journal articles have been written, which I will reference in my posts dedicated to my learning journey about Second Life.

E: Various videos have been created in YouTube about Second Life, and even full lectures have been recorded in virtual class rooms. Elearninglearning.com has several articles and videos created by educators about Second Life, and how they use it in their practise.

M: Forums about the use of Second Life in education are useful for finding ideas and how these ideas have been organised before putting it live in Second Life. Technically, I won’t venture as far as learning to code within Second Life but I am interested to know in what language was used to create the world. Linden Scripting Language was created by Linden Labs (creators of Second Life) and it is largely based on Java and C. (Samanthi is learning to code for her activity, and she might be interested in the coding side of things if she was to investigate Second Life). The coding templates for Second Life is mainly tutorials in the Second Life wiki, and some videos are also embedded within the wiki.

References:

Riel, M., and Polin, L (2004). Learning Communities: Common Ground and Critical Differences in Designing Technical Support. In S. Barab, R. Kling, & J. Gray (Eds.). Designing for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

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Back To The Future – NGL then and now

Networked and Global Learning is not exactly a new idea. In 1924, French teacher Célestin Freinet and a colleague launched their own version of NGL, using mail carriers to share information and interesting local artefacts about their communities, and exchanging toys, shells and stories written by their students. This endeavour evolved and adapted as the French postal system evolved to keep up with modern technologies, and by the time of Freinet’s death in 1966, has grown to include over 10,000 schools and 33 nations.

This early years of Networked and Global Learning was filled with wonder and anticipation as participants in the exchange waited for their packages.  Students learned from each others’ experiences, and I’m sure many long-term friendships were formed as questions were asked, and answers were written in return.

Forwarding a good half-a-century in time, and we are spoiled for choice when it comes to Networked and Global Learning. We do not have to wait for mail as email happens instantaneous. Physical mail seems to bring only advertising material and electrical bills. Surely I’m not the only one that feels nostalgic when thinking of handwritten letters? Célestin Freinet most probably would have loved to swap places with me if he knew how efficient modern day technology has made collaboration!

One thing however has not changed over time. To quote Al Rogers (1999):

“The true power of what we do in our classrooms depends less on technology, and more on what we do with the technology we have”

This short video called The Networked Student perfectly sums up 21st century learning. Our network is connected within multiple networks. My fellow student Nikki describes our small class of NGL researchers as bound by the common interest in that we all are striving to finish our degrees, even though our professions differ, and we’re doing it virtually. Thanks to Tim Berners-Lee, I can write this post, research the ‘how to’ of 3D virtual learning environments, browse my Google+ communities, and order from Pizza Capers at the same time. Not pizza this time, but ‘classic bolognese pasta’ .. which I’m sure the recipe was obtained from somewhere on the net?

As a student of NGL, I have experienced first-hand the interaction and collaboration that can occur within communities of learning. We often have different ideas and interests but we also have in common a love of learning. Whether that is in our professions as teachers and librarians or learners of a new endeavour, we do seek to build a knowledge sharing/exchanging network that we can call upon when needed.

How does me the student of NGL make sense of my learning journey, and my role as teacher – or rather educator in this instance since I’m a librarian? By building trust. I cannot impart my learnt knowledge and experiences on an uninterested audience with success. Think of the difference between hearing and listening. If your audience (students) does not trust your insight/knowledge, they will hear what you are saying but chances are slim that they will be listening – and in my opinion, listening is where a love for life-long learning is build.

I leave you with this thought by Goodyear (2014) –

“Trust can be infectious within networks. People are more likely to trust friends of friends than random individuals”.

Featured image obtained from http://all-free-download.com

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Identifying Your PKM Toolbelt

In Networked and Global learning, the emphasis is on learning outside of your comfort zone, and establishing your life-long learning network globally. Personal Knowledge Mastery, or PKM for short, is identifying your own learning routine.

Harold Jarche (2014) identify PKM as a process of Seek, Sense and Share. Essentially how you seek information, how you make sense out of your newly obtained knowledge, and – important for Network and Global learning – how you share this information.

Ira Socol (2009) from Michigan State University, explains that as humans we all require skills (whatever our interests are) and the ‘how to’ knowledge to share these skills within our network. Skills are transferrable, and sharing will enhance your own understanding, and appreciation of newly acquired skill sets.

This is where T.E.S.T comes in. Task – Environment – Skills – Tools. Skills are learned, and practised in an environment where one could fulfil a task, with specific tools used to complete the task. Some tools work better than other, some tools work quicker but not better.

Remember the days when learning anything you’re curious about meant a trip to the local library? If not, you might be a Digital Native, and Ira Socol are very opinionated about that!

“Don’t give me your “digital native” nonsense. People even need to learn to properly hold a hammer – tool skills are not natural. Nor is tool knowledge. Every day I go into schools where students struggling with reading are left in the dark – as if we denied wheelchairs to students who couldn’t walk on the theory that being left on the floor would motivate their legs to work. Teach your children well ” – Ira Socol

Looking at my own PKM, I find that the Internet plays a significant role. I can hardly imagine a time without the Internet .. although being connected to the NBN (national broadband network) does give me glimpses into the past of dial-up speed!

Social Media has for sure made it easier to connect globally and reach more knowledge communities.  As the image above shows, I use a variety of online platforms to seek and share information. Making sense of it all, is an ongoing process of reflecting and discussions with colleagues and peers. For seeking quality information, one can never pass a good database and for sharing online, I have found Google+ communities to be interesting and insightful. Some of my favourites are:

Libraries and Librarians

Serious Games

Raspberry Pi (quite a big and busy community)

As the semester progress, our PKM will expand and I for one plan to learn more about 3D virtual learning spaces and how libraries can utilise this effectively. Starting with learning how to ‘work’ Second Life.

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