What more do I need to know about NGL?

Lots! Especially in relation to case studies and trials which have been undertaken in the higher education environment. Thanks to my seeking activities using Diigo and subscribing to several sites such as Stephen Downes OLDaily, plus some rss feeds I have more information to consult and filter than time to do so. Still for the requirements of the course I need to filter, make sense and share how I think NGL can inform my role as a teacher. It will be useful to distill these ideas down to something which ‘may’ be attainable in the environment I work in, though there are so many potential institutional obstacles along the way. However I will remain optimistic that the ‘decision makers’ have plans to enable change to take place which will allow more freedom to interact with the network outside the boundaries of the Moodle LMS. I’ve gathered some articles discussing the limitations of LMSs, so will need to consider these issues in my overall picture of possibilities.

My head does feel much like Mari’s when she states that:

……at this stage, my head is so full of ideas, over-loaded with new information and excitement about blogging and engagement in this course, that I simply feel like I don’t know how to capture all of this in a “traditional academic way.”

In this recent online presentation delivered by Stephen Downes about “The challenges (and future) of networked learning” he states that “A broad understanding of the meaning and potential of networked learning can help educational institutions to rethink their role beyond the provision of LMS and centralised information systems”. They need to examine what skills are needed, what happens if they don’t develop them and the technology need to develop the skills.
I found this really useful to distill my thoughts as his presentation is comprehensive, yet he presents simply the core concepts and issues which we have covered in the course.

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Flipside of NGL: some critical reflections

Looking at the flipside of NGL learning , I have found myself agreeing with Goksu, Paul, and Mari’s comments about Brennan’s article ‘In Connectivism, no one can hear you scream: a guide to understanding the MOOC novice’. It struck a chord with my experiences, even though this NGL course is not a MOOC situation, many of the issues are still relevant. In a broad sense his statement below summarizes the main weaknesses I have observed:

Connectivism as a theory does not provide support for, or recognition of prior knowledge, cognitive load, or novice issues, or recognize particular novice needs, even though individual connectivists sometimes do, or try to.

 My current view also supports the following observations made by Brennan:

  • He claims that faith to a theory can get in the way of the evidence, and as such believes there is no “one size fits all” theory and no “one size fits all” student. If no one size fits all, then we need to look at blends and possibilities of integrating NGL activities to prepare students with the skills needed for the shift towards this style of learning. In the current education structure, this suggests we should be starting in early education, so that students have the opportunity to develop the learning skills needed to equip them for their vocation/s and lifelong learning.
  • Connectivist theory does not differentiate between novices and experts and can be a disservice to both – distributed platforms, networked nature of learning, new tools and techniques can add significantly to cognitive load. As this has a relationship to feelings of fear and anxiety it can help explain why novice learners may experience difficulties in unstructured learning environments.
  • Connectivist theory does not allow for novice support – this will not fit with the current approach to student support being fostered at USQ. Do we want students to feel worse about their learning efforts? If they are mature age students trying to retrain or change vocations, this may not encourage them. With a diverse range of students both domestic and international, there will always be those who require academic support and encouragement to continue, and succeed with their studies.

I’d like to keep these comments by Brennan in mind, as I feel they are important for me to consider in my future proposals for NGL learning.

Not everyone knows how to be a node. Not everyone is comfortable with the type of chaos Connectivism asserts. Not everyone is a part of the network. Not everyone is a self-directed learner with advanced metacognition. Not everyone is already sufficiently an expert to thrive in a free-form environment. Not everyone thinks well enough of their ability to thrive in an environment where you need to think well of your ability to thrive.

And will be encouraged by this statement too:

It’s not difficult to design for novices. It’s not difficult to give people the tools they need to catch up. It’s not difficult to connect if a sensitive, careful and thoughtful design is there to connect you to the help you need.

In addition, as Andrew comments in ‘Being critical of NGL’ there are potential weaknesses such as equity and accessibility to technology, computer literacy, the online learning skills required of the students and the online teaching skills of the teacher which need to be taken into consideration before implementing NGL into classrooms. In my higher education context with the majority of students studying online, the challenge I see is to reduce the impact of these potential weaknesses on students’ learning and improve the quality and relevance of education to help equip students with the skills needed in 21st century workplaces.


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Blogging about blogging

Recent reflections about blogging are revealing some thoughts, which have possibly been running through many students’ minds, including mine and I’m finding it really valuable to read these now, as I contemplate the benefits of NGL as a learner, student and teacher.
Eliesha’s post elaborates on why she does not like blogging, although she is now trying to throw caution to the wind; Anne comments on the hours and hours she spends reading, thinking and composing her posts. Paul wonders in his stinky fish analogy if anybody is out there and do they care to read his blogs and comes to the following conclusion, which sounds like good advice to me.

It’s a risk to put anything out there. But I think that unless we risk we don’t grow.  I guess it comes down to practice.  Unless we practice we don’t transform, and through continued practice we are forced to reflect on our experiences, feedback so that hopefully we improve.

I would love to have time to read all students’ posts and engage in more conversations, but time is always against me and the tasks in this course swallow up all the time I can spare. So it’s quite possible there are other conversations happening around this topic.
I do recall David’s advice earlier in the course where he suggests that we won’t have time to do this!
It’s enjoyable at times, gruelling at others – I’m not a journalist or a writer, so composing blog posts does not come easily to me either, but my mind is filled with thoughts and I’ve even dreamed about NGL activities, so it’s getting into my psyche! Now I find myself asking if there should be more ‘quality’ time to interact and learn from each other, rather than racing to complete the required number of tasks and write our final reflections- also to be posted?
I am also wondering if it is good practice to provide ‘helpful suggestions about blogging’ for students at the start of the course or is it something we have to learn from experience? I recall some links to sites about blogging at the start of the course, but with so many other things to do…….
The 23things site provides some helpful information about blogging and suggests that:

After you’ve got past the technical skills, you’ll want to think about writing skills. Yes, you need to adapt your writing styles for the web. People read differently on the screen.. they skim and scan, so you need to write more like a newspaper journalist. Lead ideas up front, plenty of paragraphs, smaller chunks, fewer words, lots of bullet points and headings (1-2-3). Images where you can, too.

Mari had some great suggestions for Laura and Tracey based on her experiences in the course. As a student and learner, I’d like to have access to helpful advice like this – a course artifact, so would like to know your thoughts?
Mari has commented “This is a tough question… Something I often struggle with when I need to guide my own students. How much guidance is the right amount? It also depends so much from learner to learner. It worked for me in this course to figure things out along the way………”
After reading Mari’s post, and David’s advice about ‘Making connections with ideas and knowledge not people’ in Tracey’s post, it caused me to revisit the topic of 21st century skills for today’s learners and hope that it is not too challenging for adult learners to develop some of these skills such as grit, determination, tenacity, perseverance and self regulation to name a few.


Shedding light: Deb Liriges

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Skills for 21st century learners

After reading Mari’s post, and David’s advice about ‘Making connections with ideas and knowledge not people’ in Tracey’s post, it caused me to revisit the topic of 21st century skills for today’s learners which I plan to include in my reflections on how NGL can inform my role as a teacher in a support role.

In Jackie Gerstein’s blog User Generated Education she posts about ‘The other 21st century skills’ and adds some additional skills and attributes she believes would serve the learners (of all ages) in this era of learning. She provides links to resources for educators under each of these topics. I perceive that many of us have been challenged to develop our ‘grit and resilience’ in this NGL course and to alter our views and approaches about our online interactions. Hopefully these experiences will help our future interactions in the networked space.



Jackie Gerstein: Skills & attributes of today’s learners (Creative Commons)

She favors the skills identified by Tony Wagner:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
  • Agility and adaptability
  • Initiative and entrepreneurialism
  • Effective oral and written communication
  • Accessing and analyzing information
  • Curiosity and imagination

She then lists the following additional skills, which she has gleaned from blogs, social networks and conferences. She suggests that students can develop psychological resources that promote grit, tenacity and perseverance.
How to Foster Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance: An Educator’s Guide

Grit: the perseverance to continue on one’s journey and working strenuously towards challenges.
Resilience: the ability to bounce back in the face of set-backs, obstacles and failures.
Hope and optimism: lists five research based guidelines to help students develop hope

  • Identify and prioritize their top goals, from macro to micro
  • Breakdown the goals –especially long term ones – into steps
  • Teach students that there’s more than one way to reach a goal
  • Tell stories of success
  • Keep it light and positive.

Vision: Motivating learners to have dreams, objectives and causes to support.
Self-regulation: students need to learn to be more autonomous, flexible and critical in their thinking.
Empathy and global stewardship: to enable students to integrate other peoples’ perspectives with their own in a global community.


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Some thoughts on ‘Being critical of NGL’

It is a perplexed issue as Tracey comments in ‘Being critical of NGL’, as with any critical examination we are endeavoring to assess the benefits and weaknesses and suggest a reasonable stance for our situation. As a new pedagogy, Connectivism is very appealing and offers many benefits, as it provides a new approach to learning which attempts to address the changed knowledge environment and expanded capacity to communicate. The messy stuff is happening between the screens and us – in the privacy of our study spaces with our NGL learning struggles made public if we dare to bare all.

As this is a specialist course in NGL, I suggest that our experience is possibly more intense than students would experience if studying a different discipline with elements of networked learning included in their course. However as an ‘apprentice’ NGL learner, I feel that I don’t yet have enough knowledge or experience about some aspects of NGL to be making informed comments.
David titled the course blog ‘An experiment in networked and global learning’, with “the exact shape of that support and the course to emerge over the coming months”. I’d find it helpful to see his reflections about this experiment at the end of semester – his decisions as facilitator, accommodating the range of students’ digital literacies, course expectations and outcomes etc and how this will inform the next offer of the course. It would be useful feedback to have in my teaching support role and I expect for the various perspectives of other students in this course.

At this stage even though I’ve been challenged to become familiar enough with the technologies required to participate and interact in this space, it’s all skills, knowledge and experiences, which I previously did not possess, so I have progressed in this space! I’ve found myself having similar thoughts to Musette about the assumed knowledge of tools that support NGL, so it’s reassuring to know there are others on this part of the spectrum. Learning journeys start from many different places and those of us in this space can still be encouraged by the skills and experience acquired which we can utilize in the future.

I agree with Musette’s suggested approach where she is exploring the possibilities of some incremental implementation in her teaching environment, because I also see this as a way to introduce more NGL style learning into USQ courses. Even though the majority of their courses are offered online, the institution continues to encourage teaching staff to modify and improve their learning and teaching activities to better suit online learning. As David comments in Andrew’s post about ‘Being critical of NGL’, “much of what you see in online learning in universities is old wine in new bottles” and I totally agree. However the task of achieving a paradigm shift in a large institution is a huge one, so incremental change to produce the gradual transformation is the only practical approach I can envision at this stage of my NGL journey.

More to follow……

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Digital distractions and learning about zentangles

For me personally, this video below reinforced the importance of taking time out from the net and our digital distractions to unplug, calm down and focus on one thing at a time and do some focused calm thinking.
It outlines the disadvantages of distraction and consequent short term attention spans, and argues that  we also need to take time out to pay attention, control our mind,  think conceptually, think critically and creatively. Learning to draw zentangles is providing me with the opportunity to do this, even though I am still challenged to find time every day for this activity. It has provided time for me to focus and reflect on learning some new skills and comparing this with my NGL learning experiences.
Some of the main benefits are shared below and I’m particularly interested in the educational and motivational benefits. Interestingly a short session is planned for our eLearning Development planning day next week to introduce staff to the idea  and hopefully assist their creative thinking and problem solving activities.


Benefits and uses of creating zentangles

Some of main ways the method is used:

  • relaxation – offers a quick way to redirect your focus and enter a more relaxed state
  • education – helps to improve eye/hand coordination, creativity and personal expression, problem solving, relaxation and focus, confidence and cross cultural understanding.
  • motivational training – improves self-esteem and supports individual confidence, creativity and cooperation in team efforts, assists with problem solving.
  • therapy – provides a non-verbal modality for feedback, journaling, reflection and analysis, personal growth and increased confidence and can assist with stroke recovery, stress management, anger management, attention deficit.
  • artistic – accessible and inexpensive and can complement other mediums and provide cross training inspiration.

The tanglepatterns website provides a selection of stories about the benefits people have experienced from taking time to create zentangles.

Relaxation, inspiration, relieving stress, nurturing and developing creative abilities, improving eye/hand coordination, developing/rehabilitating fine motor skills, team building and group focus, therapy, anger management, increasing attention span and ability to concentrate, design inspiration, problem solving……

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Student views on networked learning


This digital story documents a course redesign project undertaken through the University of Minnesota Faculty Fellowship Program. The course design is for business communication courses taught at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) and hosted at BCOM Commons: https://adanders.wp.d.umn.edu. The story of this redesign is told as it was experienced and expressed by student voices.
Read more at: https://cultivatingchange.wp.d.umn.ed…

Found this interesting video which will help inform my thoughts about the possibilities for integrating NGL learning into teaching activities. Although it is about students studying on campus, there are many possibilities for the blended and online learning situations which are encountered in my workplace.
I hope it may be useful to my fellow students as we continue to reflect on our NGL learning experience and a course redesign.

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