NGL can enhance learning and create transformational changes in my role as a teacher. Assuming I was an academic lecturer, one transformational change I would adopt is to jointly create curricula with companies to encourage NGL in students via internships in business and community organisations. Such partnerships encourage impact and standardisation on a national scale, can affect employment by international companies (Mellow, Scott, & Woolis, 2010, pp. 311-312) and, by default heightens the bar for student learning. For this to work however, the concept of networked learning would need to be explicitly promoted in the placement so that NGL’s value is made relevant. Thus the internships would be student centred and involve curricula that support meaningful experiences which stimulate reflection and collaboration in group settings (Curtin University of Technology, 2017).
In an NGL setting, the above experiences would involve opportunities for student centred learning (Harkema & Schout, 2008), networked problem solving, participation and productivity (McLoughlin & Lee, 2008). The benefits for students are many. Internships lend themselves to constructivist and connectivist learning, as knowledge, skills and real life experience are gained in safe environments (Fleming & Haigh, 2017 pp. 202, 206; Harkema & Schout, 2008, pp. 516-517). Additionally, networks comprising knowledge ecologies (Chatti, 2012) can be made, and all these improve future employability prospects of students (Fleming & Haigh, 2017). The cost however is the time spent by the mentor and placement supervisor in devising meaningful and challenging learning activities. Additionally benefits may be limited if expectations between the mentor and student don’t match (Beck & Halim, 2008, p. 152; Vélez & Giner, 2015). However, these can be reduced if the curriculum’s learning outcomes for NGL are explicitly stated, linked to previously learned material and their usefulness highlighted during the placement.
The need to explicitly link NGL’s concepts to prior learning is based on my experiences in EDU8117. Though the techniques associated with NGL were clearly stated, I experienced extreme difficulty forming connections with my prior knowledge as a librarian. Motivation to succeed (and fail) had me engaging in powerful bouts of reflection on my own and with two others. To me NGL was troublesome and had no place in student learning as I felt that undergraduate students would be too busy learning discipline content to focus on creating lifelong networks. However, Kligyte’s (2009) application of Threshold Concepts to this area rang true. The transformative change occurred when I recognised that library concepts of information, computer and digital literacy were the building blocks of network creation, thereby integrating two fields that “previously did not seem to be related” at all Kligyte (2009, p. 541). Thus linking previous knowledge to new concepts finally resulted in a more meaningful learning experience – and this is a requirement for successful learning (Risner & Kumar, 2016). Thus the relevance of NGL in internships needs to be highlighted in order for students to see its benefits.
The second transformational change I’d adopt is the embedding of NGL’s components of network creation and access, and information, computer and in particular, digital literacies, into courses. This is due to experiences gained in EDU8117. The first two literacies which deal with the ability to find information, access and manage it, (Fraillon, Ainley, Schulz, Friedman, & Gebhardt, 2013, p. 17) are comparable to the idea that students identify information nodes and access them via making connections (Downes, 2011). Digital literacy on the other hand, relies on the first two literacies to recreate and repurpose information (Downes, 2011; Mohammadyari & Singh, 2015).
So, as students all of us possessed information and computer literacies, however, half had problems managing the digital literacy component of NGL as we had difficulties responding to blog posts. The inability to communicate resulted in students feeling frustrated and isolated. Thus, as teacher, I’d integrate the TPACK framework, specifically its Technological Knowledge aspect to scaffold any learning requiring internet technologies (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). This was also recommended by Lauren in her response to Mitchell’s post titled “Considering Digital Literacy in a Networked Learning Environment”. The benefits of adopting this framework are many. Instruction in digital literacies leads to improved self-efficacy, peer engagement and interaction with the technology involved (Prior, Mazanov, Meacheam, Heaslip, & Hanson, 2016). Thus, supporting students in this manner encourages them to become digital residents as opposed to digital natives (White & Le Cornu, 2011). However, even when usage problems were solved, further interactions through blog comments were poor. McLoughlin and Lee (2008, p. 11) and Kop, Fournier, and Mak (2011, pp. 1, 8) explain this by suggesting our use of blogs as social media communication tools is ultimately dependant on how useful they’re perceived to be. Hence initial failures, could have easily resulted in poor impressions of blog technologies and eventual reduced usage (Prior et al., 2016). Consequently as a teacher, I would ensure my students were supported in all three literacies, and in particular digital literacies when implementing NGL into their learning.
There are a number of challenges in implementing digital literacies and networked learning with students. The first is the figuring out what technology to use, with the cost being the time associated with evaluating its suitability (Arnold, Smith, & Trayner, 2012). However, the benefit is that once the technology is learned, users gain a skill which improves prior capabilities (Thompson, 2012, p. 160) and that further, this interaction allows content to “circulate in the (network’s) conduits” (Thompson, 2012, p. 161) Another challenge is determining how to teach with the chosen tool (Arnold et al., 2012). A negative impact with using online methods is that teachers find themselves being accessible to students 24/7, report reduced time to think without interruptions and feelings of guilt if they don’t respond to comments immediately (Boon & Sinclair, 2012, pp. 282-283). For students a limitation of embedding NGL in this manner is that classes which aren’t properly structured will have students experiencing greater cognitive load, which if too great sets them up for poor self efficacy and failure (Brennan, n.d.).
In conclusion, NGL can result in some advanced transformative changes through its incorporation into internships and the reliance of key literacies in its practice. These however require careful consideration as internship experiences require the set-up of networks and must explicitly state NGL outcomes for meaningful learning by students. The latter on the other hand needs to be introduced so as to support communication and hence network acquisition by students.
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