The interconnectedness of life in the modern era has allowed an unprecedented amount of power to shift from the traditional knowledge keepers (schools, universities and educational institutions) to individuals in being able to choose how, when and what they learn in a networked and global learning environment. These new technology changes, including social media, create “new opportunities to create and share information, and increased ability for interact[ion] with peers globally … the current age should be one of throwing open doors of learning to bring as many potential contributors to our future as possible.” (Siemens, 2008, p. 18).
Using NETGL to learn a new skill - a homesteading skill - was an easy choice for me. Given I had planted numerous cabbages in my vegetable garden with the intention of learning how to make sauerkraut, I had yet to find the time to learn this, and took advantage of the ability to learn this skill concurrently with my formal studies. I was confident of finding plentiful resources to assist me in my learning.
As a learner, participation in NETGL was useful for me as I felt free to be able to learn a topic without the stress of being assessed like in formal education paths. As my motivation was high to learn a new skill, it made me search and think more about connections and where to possibly find information. The information available online was of a significant and varied number that the access to the information was not the issue. The difficulty was filtering through all this information to find out what may be the most useful in achieving the skill my learning online, and what information seemed credible to be able to achieve this skill. I considered it necessary to attempt to filter this information for quality (Shirky, 2008) and use NETGL to do this.
Searching, finding, and watching information regarding making sauerkraut, was a simple feat online, but did not constitute networked learning as stipulated in the literature. Bonzo and Parchoma (2010) state that one of the key points of social constructivist thinking, is ‘learning requires active participation by the learner’, and this can be referenced to the ‘network’ part of networked learning, being not only technology but also social (Kehrwald, 2005). In order to construct my knowledge of this subject, I needed to build on the ideas and practices of members of a group (Riel & Polin, 2004). Although I joined specific forums on prominent fermenting websites and Facebook groups, I didn’t participate or ask questions in the forums. Upon reflection I believe it is because as an adult learner, I don’t like to be seen as failing (Stillborne & Williams, 1996), and by asking a question to a forum, is akin to admitting failure to a vast number of people, and is not conducive to my self-esteem. I am more like what Jarche (2012) describes as a ‘passive lurker’ – watching, listening, reading – but not participating. Perhaps my knowledge did not progress as far as it could have in this networked learning environment as "the individual’s changing role in the community enables his or her developing knowledge” (Riel & Polin, 2004).
As per one of the connectivism concepts, I did attempt to ‘feed forward’ (Downes, 2011) my learning to others in the networked learning environment by creating a video of my sauerkraut making process and posting it to YouTube. In the process of the video I attempted to bring together all I had learnt about making sauerkraut from the networked environment in narrating my process and actions. In this process, I remain ‘faceless’ to protect my identity (and perhaps more of my dignity). I played back the video on its completion and thought that no one is ever going to watch that. I am then reminded by Sivers (2011), that “what is obvious to you is amazing to others”. Perhaps someone will find my dodgy videoing skills and dirty kitchen ‘amazing’, or at least a step forward in the ‘what not to do’ category.
Another aspect I learnt in this NETGL environment was that the ability to learn absolutely anything was possible. I was very interested in the progress that Koller (2012) had made with ‘Coursera’ and the ability for learners to learn from top lecturers from prestigious universities on real courses for free. Using NETGL solutions to deliver critical thinking, collaboration, feedback, assignments, and personalised experience for learners in classes of enrolment in the thousands, was especially encouraging, as was the financial commitment required to be part of this learning. The prospect of these courses has exciting pathways forward as a learner. The approach to learning in this manner has exceptional possibilities for furthering lifelong learning without expensive and time consuming traditional methods of learning.
Bonzo, J., & Parchoma, G. (2010). The Paradox of Social Media and Higher Education Institutions. In Networked Learning: Seventh International Conference (pp. 912–918).
Downes, S. (2011). Connectivism and Connective Knowledge. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/connectivism-and-connecti_b_804653.html?ir=Australia
Jarche, H. (2012, May 16). A new view on lurkers [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.jarche.com/2012/05/a-new-view-on-lurkers/
Kehrwald, Benjamin (2005) Learner support in networked learning communities: opportunities and challenges. In: Enhancing learning and teaching: pedagogy, technology and language. Post Pressed, Flaxton, Australia, pp. 133-148. ISBN 1-876682-85-X
Koller, D. (2012, June). What we are learning from online education [video file]. Video posted to http://www.ted.com/talks/daphne_koller_what_we_re_learning_from_online_education#t-1213017
Riel, M. & Polin, L. (2004). Online learning communities: Common ground and critical differences in designing technical environments. In S. Barab, R. Kling & J. Gray (Eds). Designing for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Shirky, C. (2008). Web 2.0 Expo NY: It’s not information overload. Its filter failure [video file]. Video posted to https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=1&v=LabqeJEOQyI
Siemens, G. (2008). New structures and spaces of learning: The systemic impact of connective knowledge, connectivism, and networked learning . Retrieved from http://elearnspace.org/Articles/systemic_impact.htm
Sivers, D. (2011, June 28). Obvious to you. Amazing to others [video file]. Video posted to https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=2&v=xcmI5SSQLmE
Stillborne, L. & Williams, L. (1996). Meeting the needs of Adult learners in developing courses for the internet. Retrieved from https://www.isoc.org/inet96/proceedings/c4/c4_2.htm