Where does learning truly happen?

We tend to think that learning occurs inside and outside the traditional classroom. Inside the classroom is where a professor and students usually engage in learning. The type of learning that occurs will be influenced by the professor and the students. I included students because professors are not in a classroom to supply information and then leave once their time is over. Professors should be actively engaged with the students and their learning process where both can identify as being an educator in the classroom. Ideally, the professor is providing a supportive environment inside the classroom that supports and empowers students to make meaning of the content and to have control over their learning.


The next place where learning happens is outside the classroom, and this type of learning is more complex. It is more complex because it is not limited or bounded by traditional classroom walls. Learning can occur through physical face to face interaction with peers and strangers. Most importantly, technology and the internet has made it possible for learning to never stop. With new possibilities and opportunities, students have more power over their learning experiences. The professor should not see this as an obstacle to their classroom goals but see it as an opportunity. An opportunity for students to make further meaning from classroom material and to extend their learning experiences to take true control of their learning experiences. This will hopefully serve to empower students and allow them to truly learn anywhere.

Networked Learning: Ok, But What Would It Really Look Like?

For the first half of Gardner Campbell’s “Networked Learning as Experiential Learning,” I was wishing that I had a clearer definition of what he believed “networked learning” to be. Is it learning that simply creates interpersonal relationships? For example, working in a corporate company allows many employees to network, meet a variety of people, and maintain connections all over the world. Does it mean building your working knowledge of a topic or discipline off of the learning of others who have come before you? Or, could it refer to online learning in a general way?

After reading the whole article, I would think it could mean any one or all of those things at the same time.  But one line from Campbell struck a chord with me: “The common denominator is a real-world context that provides deeply integrative opportunities for classroom-based learning to be applied to complex and complexly situated problems or opportunities” (Campbell, para. 3). I just started my teaching experience last semester when I was the instructor of record for Virginia Tech’s 1106 section of First-Year Writing. I am now teaching two sections of 1105. I have found that I am a firm believer in this  idea of “real-world context” (Campbell, para. 3). Most of my students are looking to major in a STEM field, not the humanities, because this is, after all, Virginia Tech. I am always wondering how I can make this required English class more relevant to a real-world situation or what we can talk about/read/do that would provide them with real world skills. Honestly, I am terrified of their leaving this class and thinking that it was a complete waste of their time.

So what would Networked Learning look like in my context? What would it really look like for freshmen in 1105 or 1106, and how could it possibly be framed in a “real-world” context? I then read Tim Hitchcock’s “Twitter and Blogs are Not Just Add-Ons to Academic Research.” I have read articles on Genre Pedagogy that talk about using the Blog as a means of making sure students can narrow down 8-10 pages of writing into a bite size morsel or as using the Blog as the final project altogether–ideas which I have never been crazy about considering implementing.

Hitchcock stated something that I found interesting, but something that I think wouldn’t directly translate to freshmen in a class they have about 5% desire to take: “Twitter and blogs, and embarrassingly enthusiastic drunken conversations at parties, are not add-ons to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion that underpins it” (Hitchcock, para. 4). This explains bloggers in a new light to me. They’re so passionate about a subject that they talk about it in multiple ways and genres. This would also explain why I have never enjoyed blogging in the classroom environment. I simply have not been passionate enough about a topic, I suppose. So yeah–would my freshmen students care enough about their argument paper topic to want to write a blog or two about it? I tend to think no, but I guess it really depends on the topic they choose/whether I let them choose it or not.

But Hitchcock believes that undergraduates writing becomes more clear, concise, and, well, readable with the implementation of blogs (para. 8). So, I’m thinking that for my class, a successful example of networked learning could be that I have students start an online discussion about their thoughts on a paper topic, as a means of talking through their ideas before they start running with them? If every student offers at least one fully-baked thought or opinion on another student’s post, I think that could be helpful and a different, interactive learning experience. The students wouldn’t have to take on another’s advice, only read it and think about it. Because this type of brainstorming, sound-boarding, and collaboration does, in fact, occur in the real world, and these type of activities are always something for which I am on the lookout.


Works Cited:

Campbell, Gardner. “Networked Learning as Experiential Learning.” EduCause Review, 11 January 2016,  er.educause.edu/articles/2016/1/networked-learning-as-experiential-learning, Accessed 3 Sept 2017.

Hitchcock, Tim. “Twitter and Blogs are Not Just Add-Ons to Academic Research.” LSE Impact, 28 July 2014, The London School of Economics and Political Science, blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2014/07/28/twitter-and-blogs-academic-public-sphere/. Accessed 3 Sept 2017.

This isn’t the blog you’re looking for

To be clear, I’m not a blogger.  It’s not that I don’t want to be.  I guess I just never felt compelled to become one.  I’ve certainly lurked on occasion, realizing immediately that without the proper audience, there could be a whole lot of work with little outside support.  I suppose I felt there was a certain vulnerability by opening myself up publicly.  I don’t even care much to share my peer review my writings with my cohort whom I feel a particular academic bond with.  And it’s not that I don’t realize the importance of the writing process to have feedback and constructive criticism.  I do.  I guess I anticipate there will be more criticism than constructiveness.

After reading some of the posts from my fellow GEDI masters, I realized I’ve missed the point.  It’s not to present a finely polished final product that everyone can marvel at.  It’s to grow the audience.  Peer review is just a microcosm of what an academic blog can be.  The more we can grow as an audience, the more it benefits us all.  As Tim Hitchcock tells us, “we can do what we have always done, but do it better; as a public performance, in dialogue amongst ourselves, and with a wider public.”  Doug Belshaw extends the metaphorical importance of a blog further by likening it to a microphone, giving us the ability to reach more and more people.

So if getting out of my comfort zone is a way that can help not only my writing process but the academic community that I want to belong to as well, then so be it.  I suppose it’s time to give blogging a chance.  Just be patient with me since this is a learning process for me and I’m just learnding.

Networked Learning: Moving Forward, Going Backwards

Hello readers, today I am embarking in my second-ever official blog post. The first one was about how certain pigeons were populating the high buildings in Colombia due to deforestation destroying their natural habit, but that post never flew like I was hoping (blogging Going Backwards), similar to how the pigeons did not fly from my balcony. But eventually they did. So here I am giving it another try (blogging Moving Forward). Thanks to the GEDI (Graduate Education Development Institute) team at VT for “awakening” my blogging desires again.

After the related/not-so-much-related introduction, it is time to move Forward into the core of this post: Networked Learning and the need of enhancing Internet use in today’s education.

In his article “Networked Learning as Experiential Learning“, Gardner Campbell conveys an interesting message regarding higher education in 2008: having a career and being competent at whatever chosen field was being more important than asking questions and understanding the real human capacity. To a certain degree, that same context can still be applied today. Internships, study abroad programs and undergraduate research (where possible) have certainly gained popularity, and allowed undergraduate students to apply the theoretical knowledge outside the classroom. However, the use of the Internet, as a medium for even greater interactions, still appears to be missing after all these years of having a “connected world”.

It is like technology and communication possibilities are advancing (Moving Forward), but the share and spread of knowledge in higher education environments, mainly at the undergraduate level, is somewhat stagnant or even Going Backwards. In multiple occasions assignments written by students are read only by the instructor or a GTA, they are not shared even with their classmates to generate collective improvement, and ultimately end up in recycle or forgotten in an archive. At least in the past, in the times of the ancient Greeks, there was more discussion and collective learning was being developed.

Plenty of people interact today through the web, either by just exchanging emails or by being more active in platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Sharing ideas/experiences through YouTube videos and blogging have become quite popular; some people even live from doing it. Yet, the integration of these tools to higher education is still in its infancy. There are plenty of reasons/excuses for this disconnect between education and high-impact communication tool, to name a few: cybersecurity risks, professors’ teaching preferences, students’ learning possibilities (not all have equal access to these tools, not even today), cellphones being a distraction in the classroom, etc. However, just as the pigeons flew away after the balcony was no longer suitable, due to some drastic/non-lethal aesthetic renovations, the gaps that apparently separate classrooms from the connected digital world can be also overcome with some creative/innovative/collective team work. Something a member of the GEDI community should be prepared for and eager to contribute with.

Like in all journeys, being well prepared is fundamental to potentially be successful, and in this journey of enhancing the “Networked Learning” professors and students, and possibly other stakeholders, must be ready to talk in the right language (human and machine).

Let’s keep learning, let’s keep educating, let’s keep moving forward.

– CFMP, a member of the F17 GEDI order

Networked Learning – Academics and Twitter

In August, Virginia Tech hosted the 2017 International Conference on Systems Biology. A few of my friends and I attended the conference and the idea of live-tweeting the conference came up. I had never done it before but thought I may as well try. While tweeting, I noticed someone had asked what the official hashtag for the conference was. Since I was volunteering at the time, I decided to ask one of the conference organizers about the conference and twitter. That’s when he decided that I would be in charge of the official twitter account for the conference.

Running the twitter was a lot more fun than I expected. Since I was maintaining the official twitter, I had to track everything everyone was tweeting about the conference. It was really exciting to see scientists, old and young, engaging in the conference in their own way, summarizing presentations and talks in less than 140 characters. Tweeting on my own personal twitter allowed me the chance to be noticed by other scientists in my field (and I even got called out by some). I got to see our community being built over twitter.

I’ll be honest in that before this experience, I didn’t think a small/unknown person such as myself would make any kind of impact online. But one of my tweets got four retweets and six likes! A tweet I posted on the official twitter had 12 retweets 14 likes!

Networked learning, to me, is about connecting others in academia. In tweeting throughout this conference, I was able to learn about talks I didn’t attend, or got a small, condensed version of a talk. I can go back and reference the twitter account and all of the interactions to remind myself of what I learned. I found other scientists to follow on twitter and can stay up to date with their current works after the conference. I now feel a part of this field of systems biology and academia as a whole. I was contributing to this field, not through published papers, as is the traditional method, but through my own experiences that I was sharing through twitter. It made me feel connected.

Thoughts on the Relevancy of Networked Learning in Engineering Education

Until last semester, when I took Preparing for Future Professoriate, I didn’t even know that blogging was a school thing. I asked around, and it came to my attention that the majority who did blog as part of coursework requirement were outside of engineering. The initial shock was tempered by the statistics, and it served as a beginning to my reflections on the engineering education experience.

Let me start by saying that I find blogging fun. That what I’m currently writing will be (please?) read by not just a person who assigns the grade but a collective audience that interacts. Words now have the potential for greater meaning and outreach, whereas they used to be archived and gathering digital dust after given another checkmark.

So why is blogging less prevalent in engineering education?

One reason could be that the curriculum is geared more towards problem-solving. Presently, it’s hard to imagine learning the mathematical and technical fundamentals other than through the more traditional methods (i.e. the chalk and blackboard lectures). There is also the issue of meeting ABET requirements, so that the engineering program maintains accreditation (see link below). Hence, the student contract, or the syllabus.


But there are engineering topics that cannot be taught in the traditional sense. One of my most memorable undergraduate experiences was a course about entrepreneurship in the energy sector. The class wasn’t so much a lecture as it was a discussion on why certain people, policies, technologies succeed or fail. I learned so much from my peers, who unfortunately probably didn’t learn as much from reticent me. As with all complex problems, the solution cannot be taught or given. But the problem can be discussed, and ideas can be bounced off one another, hopefully providing participants with broader perspectives that can lead to forward-moving decisions. It’s what happens in meeting rooms, conferences, political stages, where big issues are given voice. If discussions are integral to real life, why shouldn’t education reflect that?

I know a number of students who chose to go into engineering because it represented the path of least resistance – more numbers, fewer essays. Boy were they in for a surprise! Writing, and communication in general, occupy an enormous chunk of an engineer’s time. Practice makes better, and there’s no better motivator (in my opinion) than to practice writing for an actual audience. It could even be a more comfortable channel of communication for the less outspoken, such as myself. Again, it’s this element of relevancy to life that I think can enrich engineering education.

Sorry, No Internet Today!

Facebook – 1.9 Billion Users, WhatsApp – 1.2 Billion Users, Instagram – 700 Million, Twitter  328 Million Users, Google+ – 375 Million Users, LinkedIn – 240 Million Users1,2

Can you imagine just one day without internet? Will you survive? What would you do instead?

Although we are in a digital era, Networked Learning is definitely a new term for me. What can I say? I learned how to use a smartphone when I was 25. Too late, isn’t? Maybe, it is time to be part of this revolutionary technology world. So, let’s get started with the basics.

“Networked Learning is a collaborative online learning where technology/internet is used to help learners connect with others or with valued learning resources3

In education, this approach seeks students to build their knowledge throughout technology tools within and outside the classroom4. It sounds like easy but,

how do you move away from the traditional education to this new concept? How would you change the misconception that grades are all that matters in education?

Although, I consider myself a very creative person, sometimes, I struggle thinking of innovative, interesting, and easy ways to explain students a topic in class. Maybe, I am not aware of all multiple digital tools available in today’s world (definitely true!) or maybe, Networked Learning can be more easily applied in some areas of study than in other ones. What do you think?

Unquestionably, Networked Learning strengths other skills that students will need not only in their careers but also in their life. It forces them to think, reflect, and form their own opinion by exchanging ideas, promoting discussions, and receiving feedbacks. It certainly empowers the students’ voice by giving them the opportunity to share with the world what they believe is important to be known.

The idea to put students in a real context/problems through these digital tools for classroom-based learning is amazing! However, before to jump to this Networked Learning world, we should ask ourselves

What kind of educational experiences changes lives2? and How do you, as an instructor, guarantee that students will gain the knowledge and skills that they will need as future professionals?

For me, education is not only to transmit knowledge for students to learn. That would be the easiest part. Don’t you think? I would have to go class and based on some slides give a lecture. Does it sound familiar to you? I want to inspire and to motivate students to give your best in whatever they have to do. They should enjoy the process of learning. Otherwise, even the most amazing Networked Learning tool is useless. At the end, everything is about motivation. That’s what makes the difference.

Are you ready to make a difference?

1. http://marketingstrategyx.com/social-media-stats-infographic-2017/
2. https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/03/30/top-10-social-networks-how-many-users-are-on-each.aspx
3. https://www.igi-global.com/dictionary/networked-learning/20217
4. http://er.educause.edu/articles/2016/1/networked-learning-as-experiential-learning

Learning with Blogs: Easy but not Sweet

Blogs might be the easiest way to publish something. Claims are “if you write blogs well, you get good comments and many readers; if you are not such a good writer, you just live with it and do it better next time.” (Seth Godin & Tom Peters on blogging)

Blogs, as a part of internet contents, offer kinds of information. Some blogs writers like to write tutorials (sometimes as they are learning). Blog sites are good places to learn things quickly. Most of the programming knowledge that I learned was from the blogs of programmers. Also, when I solved a hard problem, I wrote a blog about it and teach newbies the solution path. Maybe it was not the original intention of blogging, but blogs do contribute to so called “life-long learning.”

However, the crowd-sourced nature of blogs cannot guarantee the quality of the contents. The mass production of blogs makes it harder for learners to find the material of good quality. The traditional way of publishing with a team of editors and writers produces cleaner contents.

For blog writers, blogging leaks their ideas and thoughts before a formal publishing. A wrote about an idea in blogs. One month later, B got the same idea published in a journal. A may not get credits for being the first one to present the idea to the public domain. However, it is still arguable to say A got the idea first because B may spend two months to polish the write-up. Also, some of the bloggers get critiques for not accurate information. Blogs are not personal notes. Some bloggers even write “no comments, just for self-notes.”

Gedi Week 1

When I teach Ethos to my composition classrooms I always ask my students for examples of people, publications or things with strong ethos, and people, publications, or things with a weak ethos. Blogs are always brought up as examples of a publication that possesses a weak ethos. From there we unpack that statement and eventually determine that blogs gain their ethos from the authors that write them. For example, Dr. Peter Cochran’s blog, which is almost universally respected as a great resource for those studying Lord Byron, possesses a strong ethos as it is written by a great scholar on Lord Byron. In contrast, the blog written by kittykat92834784391234897234891 probably isn’t the most reliable source regardless of the quality of content they produce.

With this in mind, I wonder where we fall on the blogging credibility scale. I’m sure it varies widely even within this class. Would the third year PhD candidate’s blog be more credible than my being a second year MA credentials? Probably. Would either of our blogs be accepted as a resource in a college research paper as a reliable source? Probably not. If our blogs are not considered a reliable academic source what worth do they hold in the realms of “facilitating academic collaboration, teaching and public engagement”?  The people Tim Hitchcock uses as examples already have academic credibility. They have that strong ethos I talk about in my classroom, and would then do a much better job at “facilitating academic collaboration…” etc.

Seth Godwin might argue that our credibility or our readership is not what is important, but I can’t buy into that completely. Maybe I could justify blogging about my research as practice for when I do have the credibility. At the moment, however, it seems that I would need to publish my work for it to be viewed as legitimate, and I think legitimacy is needed to accomplish Hitchcock’s goals.

If you are already a well respected scholar, I think that publishing work openly is awesome. It’s academic work in an easy to view, easy to read format that is comfortable for people who are not academics. Personally, I’ve benefited greatly from blogs such as Peter Cochran’s, and even been able to share posts with people who would never actually read a scholarly article I sent their way.

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