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The passionate affinity that’s PELeCON #pelc13

Tying into the topic of personal learning networks (PLNs), my previous post highlighted the fact that I was about to attend PELeCON, or rather the 8th Plymouth e-Learning Conference, where I was looking forward to meeting up with people whom I consider to be a significant part of my PLN. I attended the conference last year, where I’d experienced its friendly, energetic buzz so, in spite of a 9hr journey, there was never any question of me not returning again this year. And, I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed; not only did I meet familiar faces en route, Doug Belshaw and Steve Bunce, but I received a warm welcome from Catherine Cronin and Mary Loftus, part of the the Irish contingent who had sensibly travelled the evening before, and all of whom were congenial in making further introductions to what turned out to be another terrific conference. Equally, it seems that others who attended the conference share similar sentiments too.

The reason for such enthusiastic bonhomie, it seems to me, is that PELeCON is not just a conference. By combining networked and online presence with an annual physical event, PELeCON is more akin to what James Paul Gee would call a “passionate affinity space” than a common-or-garden conference.

A passionate affinity space, and the learning that goes on in it, requires some people associated with the space to have a deep passion for the common shared endeavour. It does not require everyone to have such a deep passion, but it does require them to recognize the value of that passion and respect it, in some sense.

Quite right. I’d like to think that not only have I developed a valuable personal learning network, but through PELeCON, I’ve found a great “passionate affinity space” in which to learn as well. The satisfied smiles on the journey back to Ireland would suggest that I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

Being Social PELeCON 13 Back: Steve Warburton, Doug Belshaw, Zak Mensah, Mark Smithers Front: Mary Loftus, Helen Crump, Catherine Cronin, Pamela O'Brien
Being Social PELeCON 13
Back: Steve Warburton, Doug Belshaw, Zak Mensah, Mark Smithers
Front: Mary Loftus, Helen Crump, Catherine Cronin, Pamela O’Brien

Ok, but what did I learn?

After, attending a delightful first session in which Steve Bunce engagingly got everyone finger knitting in order to demonstrate possible approaches to involve children in computer programming, I made my way to listen Mike John’s presentation, “Talking with lecturers: What happened to Web 2.0?”. I was especially keen to hear of his observations in relation to the uptake of Web 2.0 amongst university lecturers as this chimes with my own interests and recent research. The thrust of the presentation was in terms of the gap that exists between the hype surrounding Web 2.0 and the actual take-up of such networked and participatory practices amongst lecturers. Citing examples of activity levels in everyday applications, he pointed out that Web 2.0 gets few ticks from lecturers in their professional practice, and concluded that within higher education, Web 2.0 “is a minority sport; it’s not a mainstream activity”. All very interesting observations, but as Donald Clark noted, the presentation relied largely on the presenter’s observations and not on actual data.

In her excellent presentation entitled “Enacting Digital Identity”, Catherine Cronin called attention to the fact that “different contexts have different legitimacy practices” and highlighted the dis-joint between academic learning practices and networked learning practices (see slide 44).

The theme of digital identity, or online presence, or personal online branding even, re-occurred on the final day of the conference in Joyce Seitzinger’s practical keynote, in which she referred to the term “cloud academics” and talked about her emerging role, akin to a “personal digital coach”, with its focus on instilling networked practice for personal learning, teaching and research amongst lecturers.

Then, giving the final keynote of the conference, Donald H Taylor, with his insight from industry, painted the big picture. Flagging the enormity of impending disruption and change soon to be wrought upon higher education as venture capital seeks optimum return, he plotted pace of change axes to locate those either too tardy, or just plain unwilling, to change and to mark them as being somewhere on the road to “comfortable extinction”. A memorable phrase indeed, and one that made me think back to the lecturers that Mike John observes on the other side of the gap, to the different identities that must be enacted within academic and networked practice and to the “cloud academics” that Joyce Seitzinger’s presentation brought forth.

All of the PELeCON keynotes captured something of this air of change, but more importantly, they all went some way to laying out ways in which education might effectively meet these future challenges, be it Grainne Conole’s advocacy of learning design, Doug Belshaw’s belief in open badges as a “trojan horse”, Steve Bunce’s knitting hypotheses or Karin George‘s hands-on leadership.

Finally though, the air of change came to PELeCON itself when Steve Wheeler announced in the closing session that the “passionate affinity space” that has become PELeCON will no longer be found in Plymouth, as the conference is looking for a handier location and is to henceforth become the Professional Enhanced Learning Conference. All of which can only be a good thing, if it allows more people to access the event and to share the passion. And I’m sure that wherever PELeCON lands, it will still be a unique friendly event with excellent keynotes speakers and ever topical presentations. 🙂

References:

Gee, J. P. and Hayes, E. R. (2011). Language and Learning in the Digital Age. Taylor & Francis. Kindle Edition.

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POT Cert Week 22: POT Cert, PELeCON and Personal Learning Networks #potcert #pelc13

It’s neat that the title of this week’s POTCert class is Personal Learning Networks (PLNs), seeing as I’m off to PELeCON this week and looking forward to meeting up with people that I consider to be a significant part of my PLN. 🙂

pelecon 4

I’ve mentioned before on this blog how it was a combination of Steve Wheeler’s, or rather @timbickteeth‘s “trivial and terrific tweets” that alerted me to the potential of Twitter, but I’ve not mentioned before that I was “Jenny-No-Mates”, the only student on an on-campus taught masters course about technology who desperately needed some classmates to learn with. And that’s what a PLN gives you, class mates to learn with!!

Connecting with people online has enabled me to go on and build a really useful PLN. How otherwise would I have learnt of Lisa Lane’s open online course, Pedagogy First?

Coming back to which, one of the readings for this week’s class is an article by Gardner Campbell (2009), entitled A Personal Cyberstructure, where he calls for students to be instructed and supported in developing the infrastructure of the Web to develop a personal learning environment of their own. This resonated with me completely; in fact, I was thinking of calling this post something like “this be the verse”, that is, until I realised that I could get what I think is commonly referred to as a “twofer”, and use it as a precursory blog to PELeCON. Anyway, here’s what Gardner Campbell says,

in building that personal cyberstructure, students would not only acquire crucial technical skills for their digital lives but also would engage in work that provides richly teachable moments ranging from multimodal writing to information science, knowledge management, bibliographic instruction and social networking. Fascinating and important innovations would emerge as students are able to shape their own cognition, learning, expression and reflection in a digital age, in a digital medium. Students would frame, curate, share and direct their own “engagement streams” throughout the learning environment.

It sounds like a pretty awesome digital learnscape to me, and which just so happens to be the strap-line for this year’s conference as well. What’s more though, Gardner Campbell goes on to say that educators should lead by example, “students must be effective architects, narrators, curators, and inhabitants of their own digital lives”. Here. Here. That’s why, in the last year, I’ve heeded the advice of Martin Weller regarding “The Virtues of Blogging as a Scholarly Activity” and I’m trying to go some way towards Alec Couros‘ vision of “Teaching and Learning in a Networked World”, both of which form part of this week’s reading as well. Incidentally, Alec Couros spoke at last year’s conference. At the time though, I didn’t really understand his message. I just recall that he was passionate about taking photos of his everyday life and sharing them online. I get it now, it’s about promoting openness and taking charge of your own digital identity… and, I’d also like to think, your own destiny as well.

Entitled, “Taking Advantage of New Opportunities”, the final chapter of the POT Cert course textbook, which is also signposted reading this week, starts

Because online education is a relatively new enterprise, you have an opportunity to make a positive contribution to this growing field. To take full advantage of this new opportunity, you would do well to keep yourself informed of the latest trends and issues and to continually improve your skills and knowledge.

Well, that’s what I’m endeavouring to do. You see, I live in a beautiful, yet ultimately peripheral location in rural Ireland, but I’d like to think that I could expand my horizons and take my passion and insight for digital literacies and social learning online, so if I may, I’d like to share a few slides with you (1 min), introducing myself and where I live. Originally, I intended to put this together as my digital introduction for #etmooc, but I never got round to finishing it on time, so hopefully it will serve nicely as my networking introduction to what looks like is going to be a great conference.

As always, I’ll keep you posted #pelc13 #POTCert

References:

Campbell, Gardner (2009) A Personal Cyberstructure. Available at: http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/personal-cyberinfrastructure

Weller, M. (2010) The Virtues of Blogging as a Scholarly Activity. Available at: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Virtues-of-Blogging-as/131666/

Ko, S. & Rossen, S, (2010) Teaching Online: A Practical Guide, Third Edition. Taylor & Francis. Kindle Edition.

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