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Archive for January, 2013

As always I invite you to read my thoughts and referenced articles.  I value your insights and perspectives.

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Consider for a moment how we traditionally describe learning environments: formal education; informal learning; structured; unstructured; and so on.  I have taught courses face to face (brick and mortar classrooms) and online (learning management systems).  I have taught informally in structured settings (large group conferences; small group collaborations in face to face settings and through software/internet) and spontaneously unstructured (coffee shops; available rooms elsewhere, software/internet).

The idea here is that learning is situational all the time for everyone, everywhere.  Let me try one more time:  You and I are people in the world.  Every moment of our lives we are in situations.  Always.  Thus every moment of our lives we are learning.  This isn’t about the potential to learn.  I am saying we are always learning something in every situation – every moment of our lives.  (Jarvis, 2006)

We are learning about ourselves, others, our “self” in relationship with others.  We are learning about situations.   We are learning culture and context.  We are learning roles and duty.  Certainly we are learning these and more.  (Ryberg & Larsen, 2008)

The motto of my Leadership and Learning Group is this:  “Power and success flow from reflection and a willingness to learn.”  Naturally our motto will mean different things to different people because we define the words through who we are as individuals.  What is “power”?  What is “success”?  These are personal.  Learned through previous situations and reinforced or revised through any given current situation.  Likewise the outcomes of “a willingness to learn” are personal.  (Duarte, 2009)

So, a group of people encounters a situation.  The learning will be unique to each person based on who they are: their abilities; skills; previous knowledge, and so forth.  The individual learns something from that common situation, intentional or not.   That being said, all situations entail some level of social context. We may discuss the situation together.  We may opt to talk about the situation to others.  We may write about the situation that then gets shared.  The immediate event of the situation is often social (an is social in the case of a group experience).

In a world of “connectedness” where everything is connected to everything else then social is true regardless of how many people may be present.  One aspect of this connectedness is who I believe I am.  Who you believe you are.  Our identities are formed and reformed in social context – through situations. (Jones, Ferreday, & Hodgson, 2008).  In a world of connectedness we need to recognize that everything we learn in every situation is available for application on every other situation.  (Gordon, 2008)

So now, it is on us, as individuals to learn well.  It is on us as individuals to be good facilitators of one another.  Even here what does it mean to “learn well” and to be a “good facilitator”?  There is no single answer.  As always the definitions are as diverse as the people providing them.  (Ryan, 2011).

For me it comes down to this:  am I becoming more loving, compassionate, and respectful of others and myself?  Am I facilitating the same in others?   I can tell you this, the more I learn the more I know that I have so much more to learn.

Duarte, F. (2009). Rekindling the Sociological Imagination as a Pedagogical “Package” in Management Education. Journal of Management Education, 33(1), 59-76.

Gordon, M. (2008). Between Constructivism and Connectedness. Journal of Teacher Education, 59(4), 322-331.

Jarvis, P. (2006). Towards a comprehensive theory of human learning. London New York: Routledge.

Jones, C. R., Ferreday, D., & Hodgson, V. (2008). Networked learning a relational approach: weak and strong ties. [Article]. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 24(2), 90-102.

Ryan, J. (2011). Accuracy and Bias in Perceptions of Political Knowledge. [Article]. Political Behavior, 33(2), 335-356.

Ryberg, T., & Larsen, M. C. (2008). Networked identities: understanding relationships between strong and weak ties in networked environments. [Article]. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 24(2), 103-115.

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Recently I have focused my attention on two areas: “Effective Communication” and “Learning and Human Development”. In looking for articles I found this one “Power up your Professional Learning” (LaGarde & Whitehead, 2012).

A major focus for me is the idea of the “geo-disbursed knowledge contributor.” Essentially my turn of phrase is another way to describe global social networks. The authors surface the phrase “personal learning network (PLN).” This type of social network infers intentionality of purpose (shared interests / hobbies / passions with others entering freely into these relationships).

Let me take a step back from being strict about “Professional”. Two examples come to mind: Fan Fiction communities and Artist communities. While globally disbursed persons utilize technology to connect these types of PLNs have existed face to face long before technology (just think of local writing and art clubs).

Regardless of location, face to face or globally connected, PLNs offer access to people of differing professions, education, and perspective. While many groups already exist, if I have not joined any then I have not begun my own PLN(s). My own example is DevianArt. My wife has joined a fan fiction group. We post our work, receive feedback, and develop new, trusting relationships within that context.

The authors layout a four step process each of us will go through in establishing a PLN:

1) Consumption. On DeviantArt I can receive broad inputs or specific (from the entire community or based on individual or type, etc). In fact when I began with DeviantArt I listed myself as a “lurker”. The consumption step could be described in this manner. At some point “lurking” is not completely satisfying and I took the next step.

2) Connection. I began to follow certain artists to comment on their work and ask questions (methods, locations, thoughts and reflections). Doing so begins to build connections as others respond. This in turn gave me courage to take the next step.

3) Creation. From the answers I received from the other artists I am able apply and experiment with their ideas as I create my own works.

4) Contribution. Once a work has been created, I would post it so I would receive feedback. The reason to post it is because I was excited about the work and desired to share it with those who stimulated my thinking and skills practice.

I have enjoyed seeing my wife on a fan fiction site. She read (consumed), gained courage to connect, leading her to create her own stories, and contributing her works to the community.

I have been sharing and discussing bounded systems. The authors however are clear that each bounded system is a part of a larger, personal system, bounded only by our personal, individual limitations. Thus every club to which we belong, every faith tradition, 12-step program, classroom, and any place people meet regularly has the potential to be part of our PLN. Our personal learning network is custom plotted and built from the relationships we have in all our communities of practice – face to face or through technology.

LaGarde, J., & Whitehead, T. (2012). POWER UP YOUR PROFESSIONAL LEARNING. [Article]. Knowledge Quest, 41(2), 8-13.

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