Upon beginning this course I embarrassingly had the idea that studies of networked learning entirely revolved around the development and implementation of networked computer assisted education software. I’m glad that this course has helped me to understand that, while technology is a major part of this area of study, the concepts of networked learning extend beyond technology and can be applied in almost any scenario where learning takes place. Having this very limited understanding of networked learning led me to believe that I had only been exposed to it in highly formal settings. Some examples that come to mind include open university courses and educational software utilised at a private English school I was employed at in Indonesia.
As I progressed through the course texts and became a more active member of our EDU8117 blogging community, reading other members’ posts and responding with my own thoughts and opinions, I began to recognise the frequent and various ways that I was exposed to networked learning in day-to-day non-formal and informal learning experiences. When playing complex and ever-evolving online strategy games, I often used the website Reddit to share the findings of experiments I had conducted to uncover statistics and data that was kept deliberately hidden by the developers of the games. Other members of these Reddit communities would peer-review my conclusions and report back with their own research to verify the accuracy of my findings. When undertaking casual independent study in pursuit of my own personal interests (languages, programming and maths), I often encounter concepts that I can not fully comprehend from textbook reading alone. This usually leads me to seek answers from YouTube videos that provide the information I seek in a condensed and simplified format. I many times contemplated improving on these videos by simplifying them further and producing my own YouTube tutorials. When living as an expatriate, working overseas, information about government services and obligations was rarely available in English. I frequently turned to and lent a hand to other members of expatriate communities to ask for and share information that was difficult to source elsewhere.
For this course, I chose to use NGL to improve my knowledge and skill at the popular board game “Settlers of Catan”. This is a game that I already possessed a shallow level of knowledge about. My limited experience playing the game with friends had been highly enjoyable. I learnt some great new strategies and online communities proved themselves to be extremely supportive and generous with their time. This led me to be more involved and communicative, rather than the more passive observer (a “lurker”) I had been in the past. Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) distinguishes motivation into two most basic forms, intrinsic and extrinsic. I had hoped that this activity would promote a great deal of intrinsic motivation as I wanted my drive to make frequent blog posts on my learning journey to be “self-sustaining” (“Motivating Students”, 2016). Unfortunately I was a little disappointed with the level of intrinsic motivation I was able to achieve. Ryan (2000) believes that the defining characteristic of intrinsic motivation is “doing something because it is inherently interesting or enjoyable” (Ryan & Deci, 2000). I wonder if perhaps the act of turning an activity into an academic assessment influenced me to become extrinsically motivated. I was often consciously aware that my actions were driven by a need to produce assessable blog posts. I believe this obstacle could have been overcome if my interest in the target learning was greater.
While undertaking this course, I transitioned from residing in Japan to residing in Adelaide. In making this transition, I lost physical connection with many of my friends, who had introduced me to the board game and drove me to play it regularly. It was not only the board game but the socialisation with these people who fuelled my interest. A post by Vaught (2013), echoes similar thoughts, albeit on a much deeper evolutionary level, by analysing the phenomena of veterans of massively multiplayer online gaming communities lamenting that they had better experiences in older virtual worlds that placed players in more challenging and less fair conditions. Vaught argues that in many highly social activities, the activity itself is not the real source of motivation, but the community that has been built around it. He explains this phenomena by linking it to concepts of evolutionary self-preservation. “The purpose of a social group and the level it takes is often dictated by how well it serves to promote the survival of the members” (Taflinger, 1996) meaning that networked learning may derive motivation from its inherent social aspects at a much more primal level.
Situated learning, the concept that learning best occurs “when embedded in a situation where the activity, belief, behaviour or culture to be learned is taking place” (Huggard, 2015), was touched on in our weekly course readings. Ascertaining whether learning is situated involves knowing the answer to the question “what kinds of social engagements provide the proper context for learning to take place” (Hanks, 1991). Situated learning can be divided into four elements; content, context, community and participation. Content refers to the learner’s application and reflection on knowledge and skills in daily life. While I was able to gain valuable information from online communities, moving overseas meant that I lost the ability to test this new knowledge against my group of friends who were able to challenge my current level of play. While knowledge acquired from online communities could be applied to a limited extent in daily life situations, being able to first see its application in board gaming contexts would have provided a much stronger frame of reference to draw comparisons. Context requires an instructional environment provide usage of the target knowledge or skills at the right time, place and situation (incidental learning). This again was something that I lost access to. With these two elements not sufficiently met, I feel my learning was not situated and may have contributed to my lack of intrinsic motivation.
Learning how to motivate myself and what motivations work best is ultimately a skill I am developing over time and this experience has been valuable in helping me better understand how to facilitate optimal learning experiences.
Deci, E. & Ryan, R. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.
Hanks, W. (1991). Situated learning (p. 4). Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press.
Huggard, D. (2015). Situated Learning Theory. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rCwwUT9t04
Motivating Students. (2016). Cft.vanderbilt.edu. Retrieved 5 September 2016, from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/motivating-students/#intrinsic
Ryan, R. & Deci, E. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 55. http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/ceps.1999.1020
Taflinger, R. (1996). Social Basis of Human Behavior. Public.wsu.edu. Retrieved 5 September 2016, from http://public.wsu.edu/~taflinge/socself.html