Category Archives: Personal Learning Networks

Drinking from the Online Firehose — Preparing for the #FutureEd Coursera #MOOC

A few weeks ago, my colleague Jeff Merrell and I decided to participate in two different MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) related to education that are running at the same time. We have regular morning chats over coffee to catch up on what we are learning about the content in each course as well as the learning ecosystems being created. We tried this divide and conquer strategy last year in order to learn from each other and it worked quite well; in 2013 Jeff participated in #etmooc (Educational Technology and Media) and I participated in #edcmooc (E-Learning and Digital Cultures). I found it fascinating to watch the interaction between two MOOCs that cover related topics and take place at the same time.

This winter Jeff is participating in Dave Cormier‘s #rhizo14 Rhizomatic Learning – The community is the curriculum MOOC and I’m in the #FutureEd History and Future (Mostly) of Higher Education Coursera MOOC being facilitated by Cathy Davidson.

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Participating in #edcmooc last year was intense to say the least. I learned some things along the way about how to filter out some of the online noise so I could focus on content that supported my own learning goals and helped me develop my personal learning network. As I started exploring the #FutureEd Coursera discussion forums this week I came across a forum about Twitter that reminded me of how overwhelmed I was last year. One of the participants posted the following comment about Twitter:

Don’t you find the word limit a bit of a struggle?  And how quickly does your tweet disappear in the flood of other tweets?  It is a challenge to even read all the posts coming in.

In the hopes that some fellow MOOCers might more easily join in on the Twitter conversation, I share below how I have set myself up to wade through the flood of #FutureEd, #rhizo14 and #moocmooc tweets to find the treasures that can be uncovered.

How do you drink from the social media firehose? Share your practices in the comments.

Find Your Fellow Learners

My brain cannot wrap itself around the massive part of MOOCs so I almost immediately attempt to connect with a few people online who are in the class and are active in the spaces that I use on a regular basis. I can’t be everywhere so why not find people who I am likely to bump into more easily with my existing online practices? Before the class began, I started following the #FutureEd hashtag on Twitter in order to create a public Twitter list of people who are using the #FutureEd hashtag.

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 11.42.35 AMCreating a public Twitter list does two things:

  1. Starts to create a community of learners who can more easily connect with each other during and after the course
  2. Allows me to follow the tweets from people on the list in a social media management tool called Hootsuite (see below)

When I add people to this #FutureEd Twitter List they get notified that they have been added and they can subscribe to the list and decide whether they want to follow other #FutureEd participants on the list. I have found that focusing on the human element while participating in a MOOC is what motivates me to stay involved — see My Human Element in the EDCMOOC.

In addition to finding fellow learners on Twitter, I also found them in Google+ and created a #FutureEd Google+ Circle for myself. Check out what is being shared on Google+ about #FutureEd. There are some people who prefer Google+ and I don’t want to miss out on what they are sharing.

The Power of Hootsuite: Create Filters to Slow Twitter Down

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HootSuite is a social media management tool that allows you to sift through the the onslaught of information that bombards you when you try to learn via social media. What follows is an explanation of how and why I will be using this tool to follow the #rhizo14, #FutureEd and #moocmooc tweets. I’m sure there are other similar tools out there as well – share in the comments!

I find that setting up Search streams in HootSuite helps me quickly scan through tweets that might be of interest based on particular hashtags. Note that you can use OR searching to have one stream bring back tweets from different hashtags that you want to group together in some way. I can’t imagine using Twitter without a tool like HootSuite. I do not monitor Twitter on a regular basis so want to be able to see older tweets that I would miss if I only look at my real-time stream. Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 12.51.59 PM

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Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 12.51.50 PMAnother great feature of HootSuite (and I swear they aren’t paying me to say this) is that you can create a stream that follows a particular Twitter list. So, for example, I have a HootSuite stream that is showing me all of the tweets from people on the #FutureEd Twitter list I created.

Q: Why would I want to do this in addition to following the #FutureEd hashtag in a stream?

A: Because I can learn so much more and further develop my PLN (personal learning network).

When I follow a list in HootSuite, I see all of the tweets from everyone who has been included in that list, not just the tweets that include the #FutureEd hashtag. I’m going to make an assumption that people who have signed up to participate in #FutureEd are a pretty interesting bunch (and this has proven true so far!) so I’d like to see what else they are sharing on Twitter, not just their #FutureEd tweets. And this is one of the benefits of building a personal learning network. I will likely learn something new from one of these tweets. I will be able to get a sense of who amongst this group of seminar participants I might want to connect with in other ways outside of the context of this particular online seminar.

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 12.30.12 PMNOTE: This is a remix of a previous blog post I wrote while participating in an open online seminar called Exploring Personal Learning Networks.

It is also an attempt to #showyourwork, an idea put forth by Jane Bozarth.

firehose photo credit:  donnaidh_sidhe via photopin

How would you explain “Personal Learning Network” to your mother?

In the Introduction to PLNs Week 2 virtual session of Exploring Personal Learning Networks: Practical Issues for Organizations (#xplrpln), Kimberly Scott and Jeff Merrell (seminar facilitators) challenged the participants to come up with a way to explain the concept of a Personal Learning Network to our mothers.

Here’s my definition. I’ll test it out on my mother later this week.

Keeley PLN DefinitionHere are some responses I’ve received from my own (and expanding rapidly) personal learning network. I asked on Twitter because it forces short answers!

Stephen Judd PLN - momBree - PLN
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Tweet me (@sorokti) your simple definition of your Personal Learning Network and I’ll add it to the Storify I created. Or just make a comment on this post with your definition.

P.S. If anyone knows an elegant way to embed a Storify within a wordpress.com blog let me know in the comments!

photo credit: / juL / via photopin cc

Writing Oasis (and the power of HootSuite)

Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating. – John Cleese

I am currently enrolled in an online seminar called Exploring Personal Learning Networks: Practical Issues for Organizations (#xplrpln) where we were encouraged to try something new to kick off the seminar. The tweet below from Cathleen Nardi, a member of my personal learning network (PLN), helped me respond to this call for action.
John CleeseOne of my goals for this seminar is to work on blogging more regularly – I tend to get sucked into my long list of to-do items rather than taking the time to write. To combat this, I tackled blog writing in a new way this week after watching this 1991 video of John Cleese talking about the five factors to make your life more creative and to get into the open mode.

As John recommends, I sealed myself off from the rest of my hectic life by creating a writing oasis. I made a quiet space for myself for a specific period of time. And it worked!

How did I create the writing oasis?

  • I brewed a good cup of coffee and cleared off my dining room table (staring at bills and school fundraising forms is not helpful to this endeavor).
  • I did not log into the Jive community that I manage or into my e-mail (those are my derailers that help me procrastinate).
  • I watched Mr. Cleese again for inspiration and a good laugh — humor can’t hurt!
  • I set a timer for 40 minutes.
  • I picked one of the blog ideas that I have stored up in Evernote and just started writing thoughts down without worrying about the structure of the post.
  • I stopped when the timer went off.

I plan to create another writing oasis this weekend to come back and polish up the post before publishing it next week. I have designated Wednesday mornings as my writing oasis time so if you try to reach me prior to 10am that day I hope that I don’t get back to you until after 10:01am central time.

Will I be able to turn this into a habit? I hope so. I’m going to reread a series of blog posts from my colleague Susan Barrett-Kelly about forming new habits over the weekend to pick up some more tips.

1) Change Habits, Keep Resolutions | The Development Sherpa

2) Make Your Habits Your Allies | The Development Sherpa

3) Never Too Old For New Habits | The Development Sherpa

I’m writing this blog post as a result of reading a blog post by Lauren Klein in the Jive Software user community: Blogging – How to Get Started? She recommends to just do it!

What blogging technique has worked for you? Please share!

SIDE NOTE: The Power of HootSuite

In this week’s first #xplrpln Twitter chat, there were some fellow participants who mentioned that they had not tried HootSuite as a way sift through the the onslaught of information that bombards you when you try to learn via social media. So I thought I’d share why and how I use this tool. I’m sure there are other similar tools out there as well – share in the comments!

In an effort to #showyourwork, I’ve shared how I happened upon Cathleen’s tweet below. Cathleen, Rick Bartlett (@rbb2nd) and several other #edcmooc colleagues are currently enrolled in a massive open online course (MOOC) called Creativity, Innovation and Change that I have been following on Twitter at #cicmooc. While I decided that I couldn’t commit to enrolling in #cicmooc during this busy time for me professionally, I have been reading a few blog posts and lightly following the tweets by watching a stream in HootSuite that appears next to my #xplrpln stream. Cathleen’s John Cleese tweet appeared in my #cicmooc HootSuite stream earlier this week.

I find that setting up Search streams in HootSuite helps me quickly scan through tweets that might be of interest based on particular hashtags. Note that you can use OR searching to have one stream bring back tweets from different hashtags that you want to group together in some way. I can’t imagine using Twitter without a tool like HootSuite. I do not monitor Twitter on a regular basis so want to be able to see older tweets that I would miss if I only look at my real-time stream.

Hootsuite

My Hootsuite Tab called ‘Online Learning – MOOC’

Another great feature of HootSuite (and I swear they aren’t paying me to say this) is that you can create a stream that follows a particular Twitter list. So, for example, I have a HootSuite stream that is showing me all of the tweets from people on the @NU_MSLOC #xplrpln list, all participants in this seminar.

Q: Why would I want to do this in addition to following the #xplrpln hashtag in a stream?

A: Because I can learn so much more and further develop my PLN.

When I follow a list in HootSuite, I see all of the tweets from everyone who has been included in that list, not just the tweets that include the #xplrpln hashtag. I’m going to make an assumption that people who have signed up to participate in #xplrpln are a pretty interesting bunch (and this has proven true so far!) so I’d like to see what else they are sharing on Twitter, not just their #xplrpln tweets. And this is one of the benefits of building a PLN. I will likely learn something new from one of these tweets. I will be able to get a sense of who amongst this group of seminar participants I might want to connect with in other ways outside of the context of this particular online seminar.

This is a stream of @NU_MSLOC's #xplrpln Twitter List

This is a stream of @NU_MSLOC’s #xplrpln Twitter List


photo credit: Paul Stevenson via photopin cc

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

My Human Element in the EDCMOOC

Authentic conversation is our human way of thinking together” (Brown, 2005, p. 204).

A few years ago I realized that a common theme in my life is the formation of community. After I had my first child I started a play group that met weekly for several years. I have been part of a women’s spirituality group for over eight years. When my son started a new school for first grade I quickly went about compiling a class roster and helped create a Facebook group so that the parents could connect and support each other. The part of my job that I enjoy the most is fostering community and knowledge sharing within MSLOC’s private online social learning community. Not surprisingly, I quickly found a community within this massive, global E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC course. It was not planned nor do I know where it is headed. But I do know that it has increased my level of engagement and connection. I feel supported and validated. What was initially a bit scary, sharing my learning journey publicly, now feels energizing.

As I work my way through the videos and readings for the Reasserting the human topic (week 3) in the EDCMOOC, I have been reflecting on community and how to support learning with authentic conversation and human connection. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how community forms and is sustained within a complex adaptive system, such as a MOOC. Complex adaptive systems are unpredictable, nonlinear, adaptive, emergent and self-organizing (Pascale, 2000; Tsoukas, 2005; Uhl-Bien et al., 2007). I’d say this #EDCMOOC qualifies! The self-organizing piece is what I find fascinating.

The Kolowich (2010) reading called The Human Element resonated with me on several levels, as a higher education learning professional, as a former graduate student who took classes in various formats and as an EDCMOOC student.

The Human Element in the Blended Learning Environment

Over the past several years, my colleagues and I in the MSLOC program  at Northwestern University have identified that making emotional connections has been a key factor in supporting a healthy, collaborative blended learning community. Some ways that we do this is by sharing webcams in virtual class sessions, by taking time to end virtual sessions with intention and reflection instead of just abruptly hanging up, and by creating instructor welcome videos for our alternative schedule classes that include sharing some personal information. (See more info here.)

make emotional connections Similar to Douglas Hersh, Dean of the School of Media Arts at Santa Barbara City College, who is referenced in the Kolowich article, we have found that incorporating more video and audio into our courses has helped our students feel more connected to their instructors before they ever meet them in person. We coach our faculty to share their authentic selves on camera as much as possible. Our videos are not heavily produced – the focus is on the authentic human connection, not on creating slick videos. You can see an example of one of our instructor videos here: Managing Transitions (notice how Dorie Blesoff shares her personal stories in the video).

Just like Hersh, we have also moved mostly off of Blackboard in favor of a private social learning community powered by Jive Software. In this nonlinear, organic online platform, members of our community are able to make connections, collaborate and share knowledge across and above class instances while still allowing for private class groups. Members of the learning community are able to have social presence in various ways, such as micro-blogging via status updates.

My Human Element Within EDCMOOC

The description of Hersch’s Human Presence Learning Environment  where students can post audio responses to discussion threads sounds like what I’m calling My Human Element within the EDCMOOC course, a Voice Thread discussion started by Felicia Sullivan on February 6, 2013. Basically, we each upload a picture to a Voice Thread profile and then we can make audio or text comments when we are able. The comments get put into one long recording and it is easy to move to a particular location – I typically find the last comment I heard and then start listening there. Visual cues are given to show who is talking.

I drew the image below to represent my EDCMOOC group which has slowly grown each day as new people join in.

voicethread-EDCMOOC Felicia Sullivan (@feliciasullivan) kicked off the Voice Thread by asking fellow MOOCers the following questions:

What is really most present in your mind right now related to EDCMOOC? What is the burning thing you are seeking out or researching or questioning? What really is top of mind?

She has adeptly continued to facilitate the conversation by responding regularly and making us feel that we all own this conversation/convergence. We have been discussing various topics such as e-learning and social media tools, the interesting position of studying something that you are also doing at the same time (going meta on MOOCs), the priviledge afforded to English speakers in this EDCMOOC, the possible inequities of MOOCs (see a recent post about this by Jen Ross – @jar) as well as the Voice Thread tool itself.

banksy - bird singing in a tree - 2

banksy – bird singing in a tree – 2

By sharing our voices, we hear each others accents, share a bit of personal information and make an emotional connection. Simply from hearing the background noises in the audio tracks and picking up on visual images in the pictures students have chosen to share, I have learned the following: Beth D. has a Dachshund (listen), Virginia has birds chirping nearby (listen), Rick seems to like the outdoors, Beth and Virginia both like to drink tea or coffee from mugs. Rick from Fresno, CA reflected on the power of sound in one of his Voice Thread remarks, “Hearing the birds chirping and dogs barking helps to personalize some of these interactions we’ve been having, largely via text.”

So I’d like to thank the students who have shared their voices on this Voice Thread: Felicia (Boston, MA), Rick (Fresno, CA), Miguel, Beth S. (Yorkshire, UK), Beth D. (Wisconsin), Virginia (USA), Sherene (USA), Fran (Australia), Luis Rafael (Venezuela), Marianne (Gainesville, FL). You have inserted a bit of predictability and safety into an otherwise nonlinear, sometimes overwhelming experience. This Voice Thread is the place I go before starting my EDCMOOC reading/viewing or checking my various streams. It is what I’ve been listening to as I start and end my day. I look forward to hearing more voices as the course continues! I have a feeling others have been listening and wonder what will compel (or prevent) people to join in.

What have been your experiences with self-organization in this MOOC or other similar environments?

What is the story of your own small group if you have one?

What does community mean to you within this context?

Related Content

EDCMOOC Voice Thread by Felicia Sullivan

Blog Posts

Online Content from members of the Voice Thread

Felicia’s Blog: http://www.feliciasullivan.net/
Rick’s Blog: http://drrbb2nd.blogspot.com/
Beth D.’s Blog: http://selfdirection.blogspot.com/
Fran’s Blog: https://elearningmoocedinburgh.wordpress.com/

Reasserting the Human – Week 3 Readings / Viewing

Humanity 2.0: defining humanity – Steve Fuller’s TEDx Warwick talk (24:08)

Badmington, Neil (2000) Introduction: approaching posthumanism. Posthumanism. Houndmills; New York: Palgrave

Kolowich, S (2010) The Human Element. Inside Higher Ed

Monke, L (2004) The Human Touch, EducationNext

Videos

Photo Credits

Photo Credit: Make Emotional Connnections by sorokti cc
Photo Credit: My Human Element by sorokti cc
Photo Credit for bansky bird: Eva Blue via Compfight cc

References

Brown, J. (2005). The World Café: Shaping our futures through conversations that matter. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Kolowich, S (2010) The Human Element. Inside Higher Ed http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/03/29/lms

Pascale, R. (2000). Surfing the edge of chaos : The laws of nature and the new laws of business (1st ed.). New York: Crown Publishers.

Tsoukas, H. (2005). Chaos, complexity, and organization theory. In Complex knowledge: Studies in organizational epistemology (pp. 210-229). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Uhl-Bien, M., Marion, R., & McKelvey, B. (2007). Complexity leadership theory: Shifting leadership from the industrial age to the knowledge era. The Leadership Quarterly, 18(4), 298-318.