Category Archives: Digital Literacy

Exploring Personal Learning Networks – #xplrpln

I’m not Catholic but I feel like I should start this post with, “Forgive me father for I have sinned. It has been six months since my last blog post.” Instead of wallowing in guilt, I choose to take some advice that my colleague Jeff Merrell recently shared about it being okay not to blog on a regular basis. He said to view blogging on a glacial scale – it’s okay to move at an extremely slow pace. Over time there will be some nuggets of wisdom built up or at a minimum some reflection on my learning journey that might help me gain some insight.

So what prompted me to pick up the virtual pen again? I recently registered for an open online seminar called Exploring Personal Learning Networks: Practical Issues for Organizations that runs from October 7 – November 8, 2013.  We will be exploring the following question:

How might it be possible for organizations and individuals alike to benefit if individuals develop personal learning networks within and outside the enterprise–namely, their employers?

I hope you will join me — register by October 1.

If the purpose of a personal learning network is to help me focus on my learning (and to support the learning of others), it seems a good place to start is to identify what I want to learn during this online seminar. Here are some initial thoughts which I hope to refine over the next few weeks leading up to the official kick off:

1) DEVELOPMENT OF ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING NETWORKS: One question I have been pondering is how personal learning networks and organizational learning networks (OLN?) interact with each other. By organizational learning network I mean the external network of people and organizations that members of an organization intentionally decide to learn from, through social media and other methods, in order to meet the organization’s learning and strategic goals. I am distinguishing this from an individual’s personal learning network. At this point I am not even sure if this is a valid construct but we are experimenting with building an organizational learning network within my own organization so I am curious if others have too.

If individuals within an organization enhance their PLNs will that enhance the organization’s learning network both inside and outside the organization? Are there ways to make that an intentional process as opposed to solely something that happens by chance? Do many organizations even think in these terms?

How might the intentional development of an organizational learning network be the same or different from the development of a personal learning network? For example, an individual can include a disclaimer on social media accounts and blogs to make it clear that she speaks for herself not for her organization. Organizations have no such disclaimer and often limit their social media accounts to marketing megaphones. This probably reduces the ability to experiment as they build a learning network.

2) THE CARE AND FEEDING OF PERSONAL LEARNING NETWORKS: I am also interested in exploring the ways that personal learning networks are nurtured (or neglected) over time. How similar or different are PLN relationships that start via online technology from friendships or work relationships that are started via face-to-face interactions?

Once I decided to register for this upcoming online seminar, I was excited to connect with some members of my PLN who I thought might be interested in exploring these topics. Then I realized that I was a bit reluctant to reach out because I hadn’t been in touch lately and I wondered how this invitation would be perceived. Some of my E-learning and Digital Cultures (#edcmooc) colleagues have invited me to various open learning opportunities over the past six months. While I initially intended to join them, I made other choices about how I spent my time — Chicago is just too beautiful in the summer. Has this been perceived as lack of interest in continuing to learn together or just simply as not being the right time for me? It is certainly the latter for me, but I am not sure I adequately conveyed that when invited.

This begs the question…how are online PLN relationships different from other types of relationships if at all? How do we read social cues in 140 character tweets from people we have never met in person? It seems there is a skill to develop in this area.

In order to truly include someone in our PLN do we need to go deeper than interacting with him or her on Twitter by using tools such as VoiceThread and Google+ Hangouts or leveraging techniques such as quad-blogging? For me, I am finding that there are various levels of connection within my PLN. Some people are in my PLN but they may not realize that they are helping me learn or even know who I am. Others are people who I would meet for coffee or a meal if I visited their city.

I intentionally start this next learning experience with more questions than answers. What are the questions that are surfacing for you as you start reading the seminar materials? How can we support each other in our learning?

Related Resources

#xplrpln – Introducing PLNs

Personal Learning Networks: Knowledge Sharing as Democracy by Alison Seaman

Personal learning networks – notes and resources by Jeff Merrell

The Personal Pull into Social by Jeff Merrell

Business+MOOCs: the Hangout recording | Business+MOOCs tweetstream on Jay Cross’ blog
photo credit: Anne Davis 773 via photopin cc

Is this Coursera Statement of Accomplishment Worth Anything?

I received my E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC statement of accomplishment today. This has me thinking about assessment and certification.

The Voice Thread #EDCMOOC small group that I credit with helping me finish the course (see My Human Element) recently had a post-MOOC reflection synchronous conversation via a Google+ Hangout. One of the topics we discussed was assessment and certification, especially in an age of MOOCs and sites like Khan Academy. Felicia Sullivan brought up the idea of creating ways for certification to be separated from the course itself so that students/learners might be more inclined to focus on the learning. In other words, you could learn in various ways and then be assessed by some external body in order to show your mastery of a particular topic.

My MSLOC colleagues, Michelle Frisque and Teresa Torres, tweeted today about Mozilla’s Open Badges program which helped me further my thinking on this topic of certification. This is why I love Twitter!

Screen Shot 2013-03-16 at 3.28.12 PM

This type of badging program might offer a way for an individual to document his or her learning that happens outside of formal school settings. From their wiki:

Learning today happens everywhere, not just in the classroom. But it’s often difficult to get recognition for skills and achievements that happen outside of school. Mozilla’s Open Badges project is working to solve that problem, making it easy for anyone to issue, earn and display badges across the web — through a shared infrastructure that’s free and open to all. The result: helping people of all ages learn and display 21st century skills, unlock career and educational opportunities, and find new life pathways.

As Michelle Frisque mentioned, the City of Chicago is running Chicago Summer of Learning, a badging program using Mozilla’s open badge tool. The city is encouraging Chicago youth “…to engage in hands-on learning opportunities—particularly in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math”. I just signed up and am curious to see how my boys respond. I am starting to focus more and more on helping my boys engage in thoughtful ways with the technology that surrounds them as well as help them learn how to be intrinsically motivated life-long learners.

This Summer of Learning program seems like a great way to encourage the children of Chicago to keep on learning in a more free way over the summer! There are some compelling arguments for this type of system in this video by Mobile Digital Arts. It seems aligned with some of the ideas shared by Ali Carr-Chellman in her Ted talk called: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning.

So what is one to do with a Coursera statement of accomplishment? If you are curious what it looks like, mine is below. I’m not sure what I will do with this other than save it as a file on my computer. It certainly is not why I took the class. However, I do realize that there are particular contexts where this type of certificate might be important. There were some people who were expecting to get this statement almost immediately after the course finished and seemed upset that it was taking so long. I wonder how other EDCMOOC students are planning on using their statements of accomplishment? Maybe there will be a Cousera badge system via Mozilla soon – you can see a list of which organizations are currently issuing badges here: https://wiki.mozilla.org/Badges/Issuers.

EDCMOOC Statement of Accomplishment

We write to taste life twice. ~ Anais Nin

A colleague of mine, Georgianne Hewett (@georgianneh), just shared a fun Twitter tool called All My Tweets that shows you all of your tweets on one page. She asked the question, what do your tweets say over time?

She then shared her favorite quote from her own list of tweets:

We write to taste life twice. ~ Anais Nin

This quote couldn’t have come to me at a better time (I started this blog earlier this week). Rather than getting hung up on worrying about how I will come across to whoever happens upon this little space I’m occupying on the web, I’m just focusing on writing, on tasting life twice and reflecting publicly.

This is also why I love Twitter. Not only did I read an inspirational quote, I also found a new tool. Plus I pasted all of my tweets into Evernote so that I can now search them. I went back and looked at my first tweets which made me realize how much has changed in my digital literacy journey since 2009 when I created my Twitter account.

  • Tweet #1: setting up a twitter account – finally taking the plunge Jun 27, 2009
  • Tweet #2: Attended a social media workshop today and finally understand the benefits of twitter – or is it just one more thing to distract me? Jun 27, 2009
  • Tweet #3: won’t get much of a following with so few “tweets” – so far Twitter hasn’t pulled me away from FB – wonder what will grab me about it? Jul 03, 2009

I guess 3 1/2 years later I’ve answered my question about what will grab me about Twitter. It expands my personal learning network, it helps connect me to something larger than myself, and it sends me little gifts.

1573 tweets later, I’m convinced!