How NGL can inform my role as a teacher.

Networked and global learning (NGL) is a way of providing education using the connectivist learning theory.  The learning theory of Connectivism is based on the premise that learning occurs when learners make connections via a network which is made up of persons and resources(Garcia et al., 2013). According to Seimens in (Garcia et al., 2013) the key principles of conectivism are:

  • “Learning and knowledge can rest in diversity of opinion
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources
  • Learning can reside in non human appliances
  • Capacity to know is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning
  • Ability to see connections between thoughts, ideas and concepts is a core skill
  • Currency is the intent of all learning activities
  • Decision making is itself a learning process”

(Garcia et al., 2013)

My experience and learning of NGL and the connectivist principles that underpin pin it have been quite transformational for me as a teacher and I believe will have a significant impact on my teaching practices moving forward. There is something about the appraoch that speaks to me. From very early in my career as a nurse I have been very conscious that I can’t know everything so being discerning about what information is committed to memory enabling me to provide safe, quality care to the patients and families I have contact with and then knowing what my resources are and how to access them for the rest of the information. This philosopy has come with me to my teaching and something I try to impart to my students whenever I can and seems to fit well with NGL.

Of particular interest to me in my role as a teacher are the principles that  learning is a process, capacity to now is more critical then what is currently known, the ability to see connections between thoughts, ideas and concepts and decision making being a learning process. I suspect that part of this may be because these are difficult skills to teach in traditional teaching methods but also they are skills that contribute to the students I teach achieving the graduate outcomes of the courses in which they are participating and also of becoming a life long learner which is increasingly becoming a key component of professional life, regardless of the profession.

To provide some context regarding my teaching, I currently teach nursing in the tertiary education sector to post graduate students. For some courses I am a content expert as well as the co-ordinator and for others I have a basic knowledge and utilise content experts to support the teaching through a tutoring role and I am the course coordinator. All the courses I teach in are fully online, however the more I learn about teaching online the more I believe that the courses are just a dump of the old distance education packages to the online environment with a few forums thrown in.

I am very aware of the dynamic and rapidly changing nature of healthcare and therefore have increasing concern that the courses I teach in are not teaching the skills required in the workplace relating to how to learn and be a life long learner and therefore are not providing students with the skills required to meet some of the graduate outcomes of the course. I feel like students are “spoon feed” and therefore have difficulty when searching for resources or solving complex problems for example. I think incorporating a NGL approach may be of benefit to student learning within the tertiary sector in which I am currently teaching.  A NGL approach would allow students to contextualise their learning to the environment in which they work and challenge their problem solving skills.

The learners or students I deal with all have knowledge and experiences that come with them to the learning environment. In a constructivist view of knowledge  we are encouraged to think of learning as building on existing knowledge (Albion, 2014) therefore I believe that by using a NGL approach to teaching adult and post graduate students we can acknowledge this existing knowledge and build upon it. I want my students learning to be transformational, to have an impact on their practice and ultimately the health and well-being of the patients they are caring for. For this to occur the learning needs to be authentic and based in reality. The challenge for me as a teacher  using a NGL approach is to support students and design activities that guide students to achieve the course learning  outcomes while still providing the flexibility and authenticity that NGL can provide.

NGL learning approaches are based on constructivist principles and according to Downes (2011) in  connectivist courses learners are immersed in a community of practitioners, introduced to what practitioners do and through this immersion they become similar in action,  thought and value to members of that community.(Downes, 2011)

Currently my teaching is very content focused, according to Downes (2011) knowledge is not something we can package neatly into a sentence, it is complicated, distributed, mixed with other ideas, it looks different to different people, it is difficult to express and tacit, it is mutually understood but never articulated(Downes, 2011). Downes goes further to say that when content is the focus we miss the messiness of learning “we learn the words, but not the dance” (Downes, 2011). If this is the casse then my students are learning the words but can’t do the dance so how do I help them do the dance?

In a post titled Reflections on NGL and me as a teacher in my blog I alluded to the fact that teaching my students to do the dance was going to require me to take a measured and staged approach to introducing NGL into my teaching. I am currently looking at increasing the connections students make with each other through the use of blogs, activities that encourage them to network outside of the course and build a professional network then share experiences and knowledge they gain from their external network with their course network. I am also interested to decrease the reliance students have on prescribed reading for their learning, I would like to see students develop resource portfolios and share them with their network. While it would be exciting and challenge my teaching more if I was to use tools external to the LMS for these activities this is not a battle that I would be likely to win at this stage so I feel I will need to stick to tools within the LMS to achieve this. My plan to implement NGL in an incremental and staged way is supported in a study by Kligyte ( 2009b) who states that changes in teaching practices associated with networked learning are not necessarily welcomed by academic staff and can leave them confused and in a state of liminality.

According to Goodyear, Carvalho, & Dohn (2014) the emergent processes are most important, what learners do, say, think and feel is what matters most. Therefore I hope that by  using emergent teaching pedagogy where the learning is interactive, self-directed and knowledge is distributed among  learners, where content is constructed with them (Kawka, Larkin, & Danaher, 2011) will enhance the learning experience. I will need to be mindful and find a balance between the teacher directed content and the student directed content (Kawka et al., 2011). Using this approach encourages the students to share their expert knowledge with the network that is the student cohort.

I would also like to share my experience of teaching using a NGL approach with my colleagues, practice what I preach as such. My hope would be that by sharing my experience I will be able to inspire others to try the approach in their teaching and ultimately have an impact on the teaching culture of the organisation.

Albion, P. (2014). From Creation to Curation: Evolution of an Authentic’Assessment for Learning’Task. In M. Searson & M. Ochoa (Eds.), Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 1160–1168). Chesapapeake, VA: AACE. Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/130926

Bell, A., Zenios, M., & Parchoma, G. (2010a). 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

Bell, A., Zenios, M., & Parchoma, G. (2010b). 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

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

Garcia, E., Brown, M., & Elbeltagi, I. (2013). Learning Within a Connectivist Educational Collective Blog Model A Case Study of UK Higher Education. The Electronic Journal of E-Learning, 11(3), 253–262.

Goodyear, P., Carvalho, L., & Dohn, N. B. (2014). Design for networked learning: framing relations between participants’ activities and the physical setting. In S. Bayne, M. de Laat, T. Ryberg, & C. Sinclair (Eds.), Ninth International Conference on Networked Learning 2014 (pp. 137–144). Edinburgh, Scotland. Retrieved from http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/abstracts/pdf/goodyear.pdf

Kawka, M., Larkin, K., & Danaher, P. (2011). Emergent learning and interactive media artworks: Parameters of interaction for novice groups. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(7), 40–55. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1028

Kligyte, G. (2009a). Threshold concept: A lens for examining networked learning. In Proceedings of the Ascilite 2009 Conference (pp. 540–542). Auckland, NZ. Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland09/procs/kligyte-poster.pdf

Kligyte, G. (2009b). Threshold concept: A lens for examining networked learning. In Proceedings of the Ascilite 2009 Conference (pp. 540–542). Auckland, NZ. Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland09/procs/kligyte-poster.pdf

Murdoch, J., Socolick, F., & Murdoch, D. (2013a). Connectivism:The (in)formal cohort and its’ implications in knowledge construction. Columbia University Teachers College Educational Technology Conference. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/3606727/Connectivism_The_in_formal_cohort_and_its_implications_in_knowledge_construction

Murdoch, J., Socolick, F., & Murdoch, D. (2013b). Connectivism:The (in)formal cohort and its’ implications in knowledge construction. Columbia University Teachers College Educational Technology Conference. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/3606727/Connectivism_The_in_formal_cohort_and_its_implications_in_knowledge_construction

Murdoch, J., Socolick, F., & Murdoch, D. (2013c). No TitleConnectivism:The (in)formal cohort and its’ implications in knowledge construction. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/3606727/Connectivism_T

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