I grew up in the era when there was no technology; you had to go to the library to find out information. There were times you had to wait, because the librarian had to get the information from somewhere else, and it had to be mailed and/or delivered. If you wanted to find out about a company, you had to call or go visit. You could get information from a neighbor … if they had used the same company.
When I first went out to work (as a secretary), we still had typewriters, maybe one Xerox machine for the whole company, and had to use carbon paper most of the time. As computers came to be integrated into the workforce, I was forced to learn on the job. I would get into a position and begin by looking for and through the User’s Manual. There was no one to really lean on or ask questions of to know how to work these machines. Everyone was on their own to learn what they could.
How has your network changed the way you learn? Which digital tools best facilitate learning for you?
When I look at the graphic of my personal learning network (PLN), it startles me how different technology has made it. There were always work, family, and friend aspects to my learning network. At school, there were teachers and fellow students. The biggest difference is how we are connecting with the use of technology. I do not have to hunt around for magazines or other types of information. I have set up RSS feeds to my email to keep up to date on the newest technology or different techniques to get information to my students. Using Facebook and Twitter, I keep up with what is going on in the corporate world through my friends.
Fenwick and Tennant (2004) state that we need to be “opening ourselves to challenging new explanations of learning, which may demand that we step away from our personal worlds of comfortable beliefs and values” (p. 56). I will need to learn how to use Skype better and how to use collaboration web site and/or software to keep in touch with learning/work groups and to participate in webinars. If I do not learn these skills, I will not be able to pass the knowledge on to my students. In this world, we would be doing our students a disservice if we did not teach them these skills.
How do you gain new knowledge when you have questions?
“Humans are completely interconnected with the systems in which they act” (Fenwick and Tennant, 2004, p. 65). I learn from any avenue I can connect to, whether it is from friends, Google, magazines, newsletters, RSS feeds, or blogs. I constantly take courses (which is why I am completing another Master’s degree) to make sure I stay on top of the current trends and technologies. The more networks I reach out to, the more I will be able to learn and use with my students. In the end, I am better for reaching out and, hopefully, will make my students better prepared for their futures.
In what ways does your personal learning network support or refute the central tenets of connectivism?
I believe my PLN supports this idea of connectivism, because, as stated by Downes (2012), “Learning is the creation and removal of connections between entities, or the adjustment of the strengths of those connections” (www.connectivism.ca, para. 3). I have made connections through work, through school, and through my friends that have assisted me and/or my students in gaining knowledge. My connections are open to assisting others when assistance is needed. I pass along other blogs, articles, and web sites when I feel someone has need of the information, and it is reciprocated by others that I know.
Conlan, Grabowski, and Smith (2003) state that it is “important to acknowledge prior knowledge and experience of learners” (para. 10). I also spend time finding out from my students about the way they learn best and what prior knowledge they are bringing to my classroom. I have a pre-test (using quizstar.4teachers.org) for each of my classes and a survey that all students take on the first day of each course with me. It helps me better prepare for lessons that are coming up.
By spending time finding out about my students and knowing where they want to head in my classroom and in the future, I can tailor what I know to their needs. I feel my connections make me a better teacher and, in the end, my students better prepared for the future.
Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (2003). Adult learning (M. Orey, Ed.) [Article]. Retrieved July 9, 2012, from Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and Technology website: http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/
Downes, S. (2012, May 21). Downes on connectivism and connective knowledge [Blog post]. Retrieved from Connectivism website: http://www.connectivism.ca
Fenwick, T., & Tennant, M. (2004). Chapter 4 understanding adult learners. In G. Foley (Ed.), Dimensions of adult learning: Adult education and training in a global era (pp. 55-73). McGraw Hill Education.