Blog Post 7 – Choose Your Own Topic

I know, not a very interesting title, but it is the topic for Blog Post #7.  If you have been reading, you know that I am currently teaching a course (HRD4407/5507) on Technologies in Human Resource Development.  I have chosen to focus this course on the creation of a Professional Learning Network (PLN).  You could also call it a Personal Learning Network, Personal Learning Environment or a Personal Learning Ecology (as I did here).  I purposely selected the term “professional” to emphasize how social media can be used in a professional setting.

At the heart of a PLN is social media.   This is a broad term and most people simple equate social media as Facebook.  But there is more to this social media.  From an article in 2011, Heidi Coehn, a marketing professional gathered a variety of definitions of social media.  But for me it is about the connection between the individual and the tool.

A Brief, Very Brief History of the Internet

In the beginning there was information. The Internet was a place to find information, it still is a place to find information, but in the beginning only those who could write fancy code could put information on the Internet.  (This would be Web 1.0).

Then there was writing or creation for the masses.  Some incredible people made it possible to “write on the web” without knowing the fancy coding.  The Internet became a place where anyone could create and share information. (This would be Web 2.0).  You see lots of references in education to Web 2.0 tools.  There are still great tools available and more every day!

Then there was connecting. (And you guess it, this would be Web 3.0.  Although there are many who would argue that it is really still just Web 2.0, but that is another discussion.) Now, not only are people able to create and share, they can connect and broadcast.  The tools that were created allow people to follow others using tools like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

So the Internet has moved from a read-only resource to a mass creation and sharing to connecting and broadcasting. Which leads us to the emerging learning theory of connectivism.

Connectivism

In midst of these new tools for connecting, George Seimens presented a learning theory called connectivism, which is based on connecting (see the Web 3.0 connection).  The basic principles of connectivism are:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

(Seimens, 2004)

If you are interested in learning theories, you should go to http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm and read the article.  Better yet, make sure you are logged in to your Diigo account.  Then you can experience how social media tools can change the way we interact with information.  Throughout the article are highlights and comments from other Diigo users.  Not only can you read the article, but you can see what others feel are important based on the highlighting and you can see their thoughts and additional insights based on the notes they add.  And as you start reading the comments you realize they are all from the same time period – looks like a group, perhaps a class co-read this article.  You and I were not there for the discussions, but we do get to see some of the virtual learning footprint they left behind.

What Does Your Virtual Learning Footprint Look Like?

As you create and build a PLN, you are able to explore the virtual learning footprint of others.  As you create and comment and share your learning you too are creating a virtual learning footprint.  Does this matter?  Well, if you’d like to know how that one person you admire achieved and grew, perhaps they left a virtual learning footprint you can explore and learn from.  As you move forward always working towards that next goal, do you ever stop and reflect on how far you have come?  If you have left a virtual learning footprint you can look back and see.  Or you can be reminded of why you are in school, again, or why you took that second job when you didn’t really need the money.  These can be powerful reflective moments that help keep you on track.

 

References

Seimens, G. (2004) Connectivisim: A learning theory for the digital age. Retreived from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

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