As a student, participation in NGL was useful for me……

On reflection, my experience as a student in a Networked and Global learning (NGL) has been an interesting journey. I have viewed my role as a student from the perspective of a person enrolled in a formal course of education.  Currently as a student  using a NGL approach to learning about NGL has been useful, however it has not been without it’s adversity. I have found some aspects useful and some not so beneficial, however with time the things that I currently see as having not had much benefit could prove to be very beneficial. At times I found the course to be frustrating, unclear and challenging while at others it has been enlightening, interesting and thought provoking.

In my readings about NGL I discovered that it is based on Connectivist principles and that learning occurs when we make connections and build the bridges. NGL is student or learner driven and therefore it can be less structured than traditional courses. When networking to find answers to the questions I had it was very easy to be distracted from the task at hand by an article or blog post that took me off on another tangent. Often it was still interesting and useful information but it wasn’t answering my initial questions and therefore as a student I feel that it would be difficult for me to list what I had learnt in this course having said that the flexibility of the course did allow me to focus on my context of tertiary education and adult learners as opposed to the context of the course writers experience.

Initially I experienced significant culture shock. I struggled with downloading and understanding the technology that I was asked to use, I was out of my comfort zone and totally overwhelmed. At this time my focus was not on the course material or what I had to learn, my focus was on the technology and the tools I required to participate. Initially for me this created significant anxiety as I was concerned about my ability to master the tools and participate in the course as if I could not participate in the course and complete the required tasks or assessments then I would fail, however there was also significant relief and a sense of achievement when I was able to post my first blog, find the readings in mendeley, save and recover something in Diigo and use feedly to see what was happening in the subject. I thought that once I mastered the technology the rest would be fine but I quickly discovered that was not the case. My thoughts are similar to those of the students in Bell, Zenios & Parchoma  (2010) where students experienced initial problems becoming familiar with the technology, felt unclear regarding the expectations for engagement  and found revealing their thoughts and ideas daunting.

In my post titled me as a student on the 30th July I comment that in previous subjects relating to ICT I would have liked to learn more about the tools that could be used as part of ICT integration into teaching, in this subject I feel that through the use of NGL  I have come some way in doing that, perhaps through the sink and swim method a little due to my need to see if I can work it out before I ask questions. This experience created a great deal of turbulence and adjustment to recreate my study routines and develop a PKM that fitted with the teaching method, my learning preferences and life in general. In this way the course has been transformational for me as a student and I have changed how I manage and assimilate information.

One of the early barriers I found as a student was the use of terminology that I was unfamiliar with and in the first few weeks I found the use of jargon that I wasn’t familiar with very frustrating as I felt that I was unable to progress with the prescribed reading and activities as I just didn’t understand what was being discussed. I had to go and do my own research to make sense of what was happening. One such example of this was the introduction of PKM routines. I now know PKM routines to be Personal Management routines but initially in the course blog I was seeing PKM mentioned and really had no idea what David was talking about. As a student I felt inadequate due to the knowledge that was assumed and I felt I lacked. Perhaps this was an intentional teaching strategy for me to engage with the material and connect with the knowledge about PKM routines by sourcing the answers myself however if I wasn’t tenacious and determined that this subject wouldn’t get the better of me I may not have persevered and persisted, I could have just given up. If NGL is based on constructivist principles of knowledge being something that we construct then as a student I have learnt something by having to construct the knowledge and build bridges.  This also highlighted to me that a NGL approach to learning is not going to be suited to everyone and that to participate in a networked way requires a motivation and desire to learn.

Bigum & Rowan ( 2013) article regarding the exploration of public click technology resonated with me as a student. The article uses the metaphor of Wittgensteins ladder, the concept of missing ladder rungs and that as we learn and move up ladder rungs the bottom ones drop away and that once you have gone up you can’t go back down. This has implications for a student, particularly in a more traditional course were content to be learnt is presented in a lineal way and the content is created by people who are “experts” in their field, how many ladder rungs are missing? What knowledge is assumed and do I have that knowledge? I used the image of a quilt with missing patches in my blog post missing ladder rungs, as I have progressed with NGL I feel like this is perhaps more appropriate as learning is not necessarily linear, it is messy and patchy but eventually all the patches join together and create a quilt.

Downes (2011) states that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections and therefore learning is the ability to construct and manovure within those networks.  Hieck (2013) describes connectivism as:

similar to constructivism–in fact, a learner participating in connectivism would likely do so at times with an constructivist approach. The difference here lies in the central role of relationships and networks in connectivism. Rather than supplemental, they are primary sources.

As a student this resonated with me as my experience has been that the relationships and information within my network have been my main source of information. Again for me learning in this way has been transformational as my experience and the amount I feel I have learnt in this manner has been significant but just as importantly I feel I have been able to contribute to the learning of others which has provided validation of my thoughts and ideas but also given me confidence that I have something to offer.

While the experience of being a student in a course using a NGL approach has been a rollercoaster ride with it’s highs and lows it has been a transformational experience.

Bell, A., Zenios, M., & Parchoma, G. (2010). Undergraduate experiences of coping with networked learning: Difficulties now, possibilities for the future. In L. Dirckinck‐Holmfeld, V. Hodgson, C. Jones, M. de Laat, D. McConnell, & T. Ryberg (Eds.), 7th International Conference on Networked Learning 2010 (pp. 904–911). Retrieved from http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/past/nlc2010/abstracts/PDFs/Bell_2.pdf

Bigum, C., & Rowan, L. (2013). Ladders, Learning and Lessons from Charlie: exploring the potential of public click pedagogy (No. 2). Retrieved from http://chrisbigum.com/downloads/LLL-PCP.pdf

Downes, S. (2011). “Connectivism” and Connective Knowledge. Retrieved April 09, 2011, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/connectivism-and-connecti_b_804653.html

Hieck, T. (2013). The Difference Between Instructivism, Constructivism, And Connectivism –. Retrieved September 17, 2014, from http://www.teachthought.com/learning/the-difference-between-instructivism-constructivism-and-connectivism/

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