As a student, participation in NGL was useful to me

When first looking through the assessment information for this course, I thought the assignment tasks looked quite easy. A few blog posts didn’t seem too daunting. After a few weeks had passed, I started to realise that networked learning assessment methods were quite different to any other kind of study I had undertaken before. I was initially slow to post on my blog. Assessment was much more formative than I was used to. This kind of assessment couldn’t be completed within a short period of time, like an essay or report. I had to free up a lot more time to dedicate myself to doing work every day. I wasn’t confident what I was posting was relevant enough or being done correctly. Seeing other students struggling with the same dilemmas definitely helped ease my mind. Eventually this lead me to realise that the blog belonged to me and that I was responsible for what was relevant and needed to independently direct the course that blog posts took. With a small number of students in the course and each of us working at different times, it was sometimes difficult to find posts to respond to. This was a challenge that Angela, Brigitte, Miranda and Natalie all reported similar feelings about. I overcame this hurdle when I was encouraged to reach outside of the course for sources and communities to respond to.

Networked learning (a form of facilitated learning), in my opinion, can be a mixture of formal, non-formal and informal education. While formal teaching methods have traditionally been popular in school settings, non-formal and informal methods of teaching are still yet to be fully legitimised in many parts of the world (UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning, 2006). I think that NGL hasn’t yet been widely adopted by educational institutions due to the amount of trust that needs to be placed in students to independently take control of their learning and produce appropriate and sufficient amounts of evidence to prove that learning has taken place. With traditional teaching methods, even with minimal effort from students, evidence of learning can often be produced through simple reproduction of facts that have been supplied to students. There may be a fear that, as most students have spent their academic lives working under formal learning conditions, sudden implementation of non-formal and informal learning will require excessive amounts of time and effort to allow students to adjust. Non-formal and informal teaching methods often illicit negative responses from students. A blog post by Maryellen Weimer (2014) illustrates the negative responses some students exhibited when transference of accountability for learning shifted from the teacher to the students. Student centred learning was misinterpreted as laziness, unprofessionalism or lack of care on the teacher’s part. This response from students may sometimes be due to misuse and misunderstanding by some teachers of facilitative learning teaching methods, however I believe the solution to this problem is clearer communication and demonstration of the benefits of facilitated learning.

Using networked learning this semester has helped me in variety of ways. It has allowed me to see that other students are similar to me and often face the same hurdles while trying to grasps new concepts. This improved my confidence and helped me to affirm that my understanding of readings and the processes I was using were correct. Learning through observation of other students, known as “peer learning” , is an integral aspect of all courses. Without it, students are believed to experience “an impoverished education” (Boud, 2001). Being able to observe the work that other students had produced, both this semester and in prior semesters, allowed me to analyse how other students had planned out their writing projects and use these models to improve my own work. David’s feedback to the blog postings of others helped me to correct similar misunderstandings that I held myself and avoid making similar mistakes in my own postings.

The concept of “multiperspectivity” refers to the idea that evaluation and presentation from multiple viewpoints provides a more accurate and holistic interpretation of events or ideas than the more “perceptually, epistemologically or ideologically restricted nature of individual perspectives” (Hartner, 2012). Learning through posting and communicating on my blog allowed me to draw attention to my failings and use them as opportunities for learning and development. My peers regularly responded to my concerns with constructive suggestions and feedback that greatly enriched my learning experiences and helped me understand things from perspectives that I wouldn’t have been able to see alone. Being exposed to a range of perspectives helped me to remodel my erroneous conceptual understanding of various topics by confronting my personal beliefs, forcing me to “construct scientifically more correct models” (Zirbel, 2006).

Sharing our thoughts and findings with each other and developing a blog over time allowed us to build our understanding incrementally through sharing of independent research that was of genuine interest to us. Having control over the ideas we explored promoted intrinsic motivation. Incremental learning meant that the development of our understanding was an active process. This made learning constructivist in nature, building progressively upon knowledge as we acquired it (Pagán, 2006). Blogging allowed me to learn at my own pace and I developed genuine feelings of pride as my posts become more frequent, higher quality and of interest to others.

The social bookmarking system, Diigo, has been an excellent tool, as annotations left by other students was of great help.  Members of the group acted as highly effective identifiers of information of key relevance and through its use I was connected to informative artefacts that built upon knowledge I had discovered independently. I feel that if I had built closer social bonds with fellow students, I would have been more confident sharing with others. I often worried at times, that my own interests didn’t align with those of my classmates. A blog post by Tania Sheko (2014) expressed similar feelings of being excited by the potential of this application but feeling a need to build stronger connections with Diigo group members. Similarly, the news aggregating application, Feedly, has been an excellent time-saver for sourcing and filtering news feeds for articles relevant to my needs. A huge benefit of both these applications has been that bookmarked content was archived, making it easily accessible from almost any computer or mobile device connected to the Internet. My only criticism of these tools, at their current stage of development, is that they can be a little complicated to setup and this could present a minor obstacle to some users. My own web browser of choice (Safari) was not well supported, however I felt integration with other browsers was accomplished well.

Now that I have experienced and better understand these benefits, I am excited to continue, after completing this course, blogging, sharing and connecting for both professional and personal development.

References

Boud, D. (2001). Peer learning in higher education (pp. 1-17). London: Kogan Page.

Hartner, M. (2012). Multiperspectivity – the living handbook of narratology. Wikis.sub.uni-hamburg.de. Retrieved 2 September 2016, from http://wikis.sub.uni-hamburg.de/lhn/index.php/Multiperspectivity

UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning,. (2006). Non-formal education and basic education reform: a conceptual review (p. 13). Paris: International Institute for Educational Planning. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/iiep/PDF/pubs/K16.pdf

Pagán, B. (2006). Positive Contributions of Constructivism to Educational Design. Europe’S Journal Of Psychology, 2(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.5964/ejop.v2i1.318

Sheko, T. (2014). HYPER-CONNECTED LEARNING – USING DIIGO TO SHARE REFLECTIONS ON A POST REFLECTING ON ANOTHER POST. Brave New World. Retrieved from http://taniasheko.com/connected-courses-2/hyper-connected-learning-using-diigo-to-share-reflections-on-a-post-reflecting-on-another-post/

Weimer, M. (2014). “She Didn’t Teach. We Had to Learn it Ourselves.”. FACULTY FOCUS. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/didnt-teach-learn/

Zirbel, E. (2006). Teaching to Promote Deep Understanding and Instigate Conceptual Change (1st ed., p. 1). Medford, Massachusetts: Tufts University. Retrieved from http://cosmos.phy.tufts.edu/~zirbel/ScienceEd/Teaching-for-Conceptual-Change.pdf

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