As a student, participation in Networked Global Learning (NGL) is useful to me as its principles can be incorporated into my practice as a Librarian. I see it expanding the boundaries of my knowledge and networks to include other discipline specific resources. However, as a result of experiences within EDU8117, I see that the implementation of its concepts needs care in order to reap its benefits.
As a professional, I see that NGL and connectivism can positively affect my practice. According to Siemens (2005), as a “knowledge worker”, I operate in a world of chaos that constantly shifts. We librarians not only struggle to keep pace with the changing technological preferences of students (Tewell, 2016) but with determining which new teaching software to use (Prensky, 2007). The chaos is increased by the pressure to function as researchers, web designers and teachers that liaise with lecturers to provide internet based information literacy instruction (Barton, 2006). Participating in EDU8117 however, allows me to formally understand that I operate within a network of nodes or information resources. These are either human or inanimate repositories of knowledge that I identify in order to gain information which I then apply to perform tasks (Siemens, 2005). As a result, these nodes become job enablers. Further EDU8117’s content will eventually help manage stress levels as it reinforces the concept of not needing to know everything, but needing to know where information lies (Kligyte, 2009; Siemens, 2005). Thus these concepts are valuable to my role as librarian.
However, implementing NGL requires care. In order to work, the networks supporting NGL need to become “living entities”. As a student in EDU8117, the created network was tenuous because the asynchronous learning methods used adversely affected communication and our physical presence. This has also been reported by Patterson, Carrillo, and Salinas (2012). The group met asynchronously and thus some students, myself included, felt the isolation experienced with this teaching format (Reese, 2015). Also unlike EDU8117’s USQ forum, our blogs, did not promote easy communication. For example, as also noted by McInnerney and Roberts (2004) our forums allowed us to portray ourselves, and categorize conversations by topic and problem solve. Conversely many noted that our blogs were difficult to set up, and I also found them hard to navigate: the presence of linked headings on the side of webpages was variable, as were links inviting us to post comments. As Mitchell mentioned in his post titled “Considering Digital Literacy in a Networked Learning Environment”, issues could be explained by White and Le Cornu (2011) and the fact that we were digital visitors to blog sites, as opposed to digital residents who actively used USQ forums for study and were fine with showing an online self in that space (McInnerney & Roberts, 2004). Thus, communication and technological issues meant that the network was prevented from becoming a dynamic entity.
As a result of the above, care with implementing NGL into my practice as a librarian should also involve balancing pedagogy which focuses on collaboration with technical scaffolding (Gillett-Swan, 2017). As a student I felt that we would have been better supported in our collaborative tasks had we been provided with an initial lesson that showed us how to set up and use blogs beforehand. Such scaffolding would have supported Mishra and Koehler’s (2009, p. 64) TPACK framework which if extrapolated implies that if teachers impart their Technology Knowledge to students, then students in turn become computer literate enough to participate and produce material by communicating, processing and problem solving with each other in an online setting (McLoughlin & Lee, 2008). These factors as a result are component parts to NGL (Downes, 2011; McLoughlin & Lee, 2008) and hence important enough to consider when I conduct classes. Their importance is magnified considering a lack of technological skill has been listed as a contributor to non-completion of classes by students (Willging & Johnson, 2009).
Implementing NGL into my practice as a librarian also requires encouraging peers and future students to evolve past a group to a network that genuinely supports “an important function” (Goodyear, 2014, p. 34). This is something that is still occurring in EDU8117, most probably due to issues of liminality and integration, and, this was useful to experience as a student. For example, as Kligyte (2009, p. 541) mentioned, NGL “receives the most extreme reactions from the participants; either absolute enthusiasm or complete rejection”. At the start, I fell into the latter category, and am only now accepting its place in my role as Librarian. I intensely questioned NGL’s relevance to me and it was only with the help of my lecturer that I began to see its worth. Thus delays in seeing its application to librarianship resulted in my only adopting the persona of the enrolled student, who limited herself to set tasks (Dron & Anderson, 2014, p. 76) as opposed to a node in a network who was brave enough to post thoughts outside of the suggested confines of the lesson plans. Other students in the group showed better levels of confidence in this respect suggesting heightened ease with mastery exercises as they “appl[ied] the tools and skills learned in self-directed ways” (Brennan, n.d.). Thus, though they lack expertise, they help the group display elements of higher level learning communities by producing knowledge that is refereed (Riel & Polin, 2004). Hence they help the group exhibit a key quality of a network which is to be a “channel of knowledge diffusion” (Dron & Anderson, 2014, p. 76)
In conclusion, participation in NGL is useful to me as a student as I see its applications to my role as a librarian. However, implementing it requires care as effective communication between human nodes requires that they are fluent with technology so they can create and disseminate knowledge. It also requires a network that is genuinely interested in a topic and is therefore not afraid to produce knowledge that is validated and useful.
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