05 June 2009

Finding the Learning Network

For a few years at the start of my doctoral level education I attempted to engage the widest range of conversations with the widest range of people in my College of Education.

On both my course websites, and on college-wide lists - Education Grad Students, and International Education Students - I posted links (or full copies) to (of) interesting articles I had found. I asked provocative questions. Eventually I began making outrageous statements, all in a series of increasingly desperate attempts to get the conversations to expand beyond the narrow limits of our classrooms.

It did not work at all. Oh sure, people would whisper to me in the hallways or men's rooms that they loved what I posted. A few times conversations began, but were quickly silenced when some wondered if we "should be talking about this." Most often I was admonished for (a) being controversial, (b) wasting people's in-box space, and (c) using a list designed for announcements in the "wrong" way.

I haven't posted to either college-wide list in more than year. In the few remaining courses I have taken, I am much more reluctant to bother to begin online discussions. My personal learning network has shifted.

Social Networking in Education from Dr. Alec Couros

Now that network stretches from Israel to Ireland, from Australia to Saskatchewan, from The Bronx to British Columbia, from Virginia to Scotland. It does indeed include many grad students and education professors, but they are no longer principally (or even significantly) at the university I attend. These vaunted "face-to-face" relationships failed me, and the world stepped in to solve my problem.

Now I debate my big questions, collect my reading lists, struggle with research issues, with a world of people similarly interested and similarly passionate. They might disagree with me 90% of the time, they often call me on my language or extreme conclusions, they may be in education or another field entirely, but they are engaging with me, and my intellectual development.

This network leads me to fabulous online conference presentations, to books I need to read, to research I must evaluate, to opinions and actualities that I have to struggle with. they challenge, inform, inspire, doubt, demand, ask, and answer.

Twitter and blogging, UStream and SlideShare, Elluminate and Skype, Google Docs, and Diigo, have opened my education, allowed it to stretch much further than even the very best doctoral program possibly could.

Consider that when you wonder if you should bring social networking into your classroom.

- Ira Socol


Rufus said...

I think what I'd like to see is the technology speeding up a bit. Maybe something like Skype would be good in the classroom, because then you don't have to wait any longer for a response than in face-to-face communications.

Unknown said...

It is interesting how "should" steers so much of our discourse, especially in higher education.

Alec Couros said...

Thanks for this post, Ira. You know, my experience sounds very much like yours. I've felt a bit guilty that I do not engage in as many of these conversation with my local faculty that I perhaps should, but it always seemed a bit forced. I too used to post links, questions, conversations, media to our mailing list; it was often returned with light conversation or silence. People didn't understand.

Enter the PLN ... things changed, for me. I've realized that there are a number of passionate individuals out there that appreciate these conversations, that are really moved by these new forms of learning, and are willing to learn together and move forward.

Thanks for being part of my PLN, for constantly pushing the boundaries of thought and reflection, and for sharing your thoughts openly. We learn together, we move forward ... and collectively, I truly believe that we'll change the world.

Unknown said...


I feel with technology online learning is the best method of learning for all. Now a days social networking sites like Twitter, Skype, Diigo give great help to students for sharing thoughts. These sites are the best way of communication. Students can learn more from these methods. Also arrange brainstroming session in the class to make students active.

Thanks from summer language school