Networked Learning

Learning in the future will be global and collaborative.

People can communicate to each other to achieve this purpose. We need technology that supports academic learning and good skills to make the best out of technology.

The benefits of learning online are many. People from distance can work together on a same Project in real time by using a shared computer screen. Resources can be accessed from different locations such as home, workplaces or campus.

The aim of blogging could reflect on our growth and learning by gathering our work. We can use blogging for the purpose of research papers and also receive feedback from others. We can also create media via various web tools. 

I like the fact that blogging let us to read others opinions on a same topic or subject and will help us to improve our knowledge sometimes towards a specific problem and learn more about how to solve it in an easier way.

Life Beyond the Classroom

As a person who wishes to continue teaching as a vocation—who, too, sees teaching as her calling—I hope to never lose perspective of what it is to be a student. And, if I feel that sense slipping, I hope I’ll have the self-awareness to know it’s time to go back and better empathize with my students.

I’m saying this because, as a composition teacher and creative writing graduate student here, I’m constantly empathizing with my students; we have a lot to juggle. As I sit writing this, I do so with the anxiety that I’m doing so with only so much time until it’s due, that I have to do work for three other classes I’m taking, that I need to grade and prepare for the two classes I’m teaching, that I need to write for my freelance position, that I need to work on my applications for future advancement opportunities, that I need to block out time to work on my thesis.

Notice how, in my rant, I unintentionally write I “have” to do this, I “need” to do that. As it seems, my perception of my work—of learning, in general—is currently one that’s being done not out of joy, but out of obligation. Not, as Gardner Cambell calls for, out of the “adventure” it should be viewed to be. Instead, in writing even this post, I’m wondering how to keep my head above water as a student who’s dealing with the “management structures,” the “mechanics of ‘student success.’”

Dr. Michael Wesch’s talk followed me throughout last week; I, too, kept discussing and wondering about the same questions he says all his students want answered, particularly “Who am I?” and “Am I going to make it?”

To be sure, my students ask these same questions to themselves, which is why I’m trying constantly to get my students to understand their purpose and worth on this campus, and to see those same qualities in themselves beyond the traditional learning environment. In class, I ask them what they want out of their lives. Then I ask them again—what do you really want? I ask them what they wish they’d learned, but never had. I ask them what they want from me. I ask them how they best learn. I ask them how they think they can accomplish their goals. And, while listening and responding to my students’ responses, I push them to at least consider the best practices, learning styles, and ideas beyond those with which they’re entering in college; likewise, I push them to, at best, consider themselves beyond the college environment. That’s what we’re preparing them for, no?

What happens to curiosity when we lose the will to be curious at all? How can we relieve the pressure from students? How can we prove to the world that this is necessary—that helping students discover the joy, the complexity, and the practicality in studying will lead to the most effective real-world problem-solving?

Networked Learning

My uninformed understanding of networked learning paints a picture in which the learner acquires knowledge by way of linking interconnected nodes wherein presences the tiny bits of the building blocks of knowledge.

Interestingly, not very far from this layman’s viewpoint, Gardner Campbell in his ‘Networked Learning as Experiential Learning’, notes that networked learning is of the kind that seeks to go beyond the satisfaction of career pursuits and the attainment of competencies, rather, being inherently imbued with an additional aspiration towards reaching for the self-actualization of the learner. Being this multidimensional, networked learning, thus, transcends the narrow realm of contemporary assessment as founded on easily observable outcomes.

Campbell further defines this concept by delving into a thinly veiled methodology towards the attainment of networked learning. He points out four key aspects that, presumably, ought to be characteristic of learning if at all it is to be networked.

Networked learning ought to be learner oriented wherein the process is built by the learner and merely facilitated by instructor, all this, within the context of the digital web. A vital component of networked learning is introduced here, the digital web. Tim Hitchcock in his ‘Twitter and blogs are not just add-ons to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion underpinning it’, adds reverence to the role of the digital web in the academia. He notes that the web is so important that it forms the very gist of academic research. He argues, the digital media can be used for reaching out to the wider audience and enhancing one’s research impact in the process. The anticipation of reaching out to the wider audience can also passively enhance the quality of one’s academic work, he contends. Doug Bershaw in his ‘Working openly on the web: a manifesto’, breaks down some tips on making the best of the digital world namely; having an own web portal, working openly and, finally, using optimized language that is easily readable by both machines and humans.

Further, networked learning must embrace both curricular and co-curricular activities. This duality must provide a deliberate opportunity for the learner to experience and solve real life problems.

In addition, networked learning must be seen to be desirous of developing the individual learning within the wider context of the societal picture.

It is clear, at this point, that networked learning seeks to produce a multi-dimensional, well-rounded individual complete with the skills set needed for a career and knowledge of oneself and indeed the wider context in which existence occurs. It is a very beautiful concept.

Notwithstanding the beauty of this concept, it would seem that there lurks a danger of it coming off as being more of an abstract concept with unlimited definitions.

If networked learning must transcend the narrow realm of easily observable outcomes, then it presents itself as being beyond the scope of many contemporary learning progress assessment mechanisms. This would portray it as being widely abstract, immeasurable and subject to chance. From this viewpoint, the ontological challenges of understanding this concept would be mundane.

In the current environment, the concept may be seen to be contradictory of a widely held truth whereby many a learner primarily embark on formal learning with the motivation to acquire a set of skills that would enable them to earn a living. In this environment, it would seem that the primary purpose of learning is to satisfy career needs. The self-actualization and the wider picture appear to be secondary aspirations. Formal learning contracts, in predominant use today, prioritize the career-oriented learning. The non-curricular aspirations are left out to chance, whenever that arises. However, knowing that networked learning is a totality of both curricular and co-curricula activities, where the former precedes the latter, it becomes interesting how the totality may be attained.


Blogging & Academic Writing

The very idea of blogging contains a lot of resistance. Even our first day of class when asked, very few people raised their hands to say they enjoy blogging or that they even have a blog. This, of course, makes me wonder, why? Is it for the fact that it forces us to express ourselves—the use of I throughout our piece of writing? It can make us feel too touchy feely or narcissistic. Me. Me. Me. It all sounds very weird when sharing our words to the world, our opinions that are shared to the public is us saying our words need to be heard. In Tim Hitchcock’s article “Twitter and Blogs are Not Just Add-ons To Academic Research” discusses how we can bridge academia and blogging, how blogging is a tool to create arguments. In academia, we are often taught that we should avoid using the first person when making a formal argument, but Hitchcock wants to combat that notion. In fact, Hitchcok says “The best (and most successful) academics are the ones who are so caught up in the importance of their work, so caught up with their simple passion for a subject, that they publicise it with every breadth.” This quote stuck out to me because he’s implying the best kind of argument comes from people who are relatable. They come from people who are passionate and truly care about what they are saying. At the end of the day, we are gravitated to people who are human. Hitchcock discusses how academic humanists have always been a public one. This idea of public is one I find interesting and potentially problematic. The Internet is a space that is not necessary the most safe space, especially in regards to those who are in minority groups. People want to be visible and heard, to have their arguments and stories heard. When I think of Twitter and other mediums of receiving and sending out information, there are anonymous users and harassers out there as well. I recognize that sometimes not everyone can participate in this way of public activism. Blogging is a chance to document and archive information. Hitchcock shares that he transcribes speeches/presentations that he has done in the past. This makes the most sense because he is giving those that don’t have the money or the opportunity to access his original speeches. The Internet is a place to reach and even connect with more people than ever before—people of different backgrounds, social class, and different geographic regions. Just like any kind of writing, blogging is a certain writing style. Similar to academic writing, it takes practice to perfect the craft. Reading Hitchcock’s article I found reassurance for the fact that it, too, is a blog. Reading more blogs can give one more of a feel in how a blog should look and sound like. For me, I’m excited to keep on writing, to keep on blogging, to make Tim Hitchcock proud.

Maintaining Humanity in a Digital World

I received my undergraduate degree from Davidson College, which is a small liberal arts school outside of Charlotte, NC. While it’s possibly most known for producing basketball phenom Stephen Curry (too bad Virginia Tech!), it prides itself on a low student-faculty ratio, intimate class sizes, and rigorous academics. The priority placed on teaching there fit very well with my own ideals for what learning should be. Coming to Virginia Tech, a full-blown R1 research institution, required a cultural adjustment. Gardner Campbell’s article resonates with the way I felt during my first year here. Interestingly, my experiences in the classroom and the relationships I have with my professors is not dissimilar from those that I had in undergrad (I’m in a pretty small program), but I definitely feel the effects of existing in an academic world dictated by objectives, outcomes, and metrics when I happen to cross paths with the multi-faceted, many-cogged machine that is the university-at-large. Some of these effects I feel indirectly. I have friends who’ve been in classes of over 300 students, taught in gargantuan lecture halls, featuring a half-committed professor rehashing the same lecture from a decade earlier. Michael Wesch picks apart the effectiveness of this dogmatic approach to education in his TED talk video we watched on Wednesday. Fortunately, none of my classes are like that, and I am only able to imagine how insignificant it must feel to be a student in that situation. However, there are other ways in which I feel these effects very directly, the most superficial being funding. I’ll be the first to admit that the art department isn’t the bread-winner at Virginia Tech. We are a small group of small fishes in a big Duck Pond. However, just like any department, we need money and resources to fund graduate students, purchase new equipment, and secure studio spaces. But there isn’t much of that for the arts at an institution that prioritizes measurable research, especially one funded by the government (and super especially at this particular moment in time). Often, we will collaborate on research projects with other departments in engineering or the sciences in an attempt to appropriately reclassify ourselves to be eligible for the funding that’s available. And while such cross-disciplinary team-ups are excellent opportunities and undoubtedly work towards a more networked learning environment, too often the requisite reclassification paints us more as designers than artists (and I will vehemently and passionately argue the distinction). Kuh’s “comprehensive approach” to student education is most at-risk from a system predicated on career outcomes. I agree with Kuh and Campbell that readjusting our emphasis to be about student learning and inquiry is paramount to a true education. There are certain skills such as feeling comfortable talking to people, being aware of the needs of others, and being an active listener that may not be pertinent to the knowledge pool of a field of study, but are absolutely critical as a professional. Similarly, ingesting information to spit back up on a test does little towards helping students identify and solve problems they encounter. These “human” skills are difficult to justify when numbers serve as the reason for doing, especially so when many forms of both work and leisure take place behind the glow of a computer screen. Finding ways to utilize and develop them in (or alongside) the classroom is one of the biggest challenges we face as educators today.

Network Learning

Networked Learning is gaining attention these days but started becoming prominence from early 1990s. Here, the key term is ‘network’ which means making connection and building them. To my understanding, the process of network learning include making connections not just with people and organizations but with information as well. These connections are necessary to expand one’s knowledge and share their understanding of a topic in their network for people to gain knowledge.  Applications of networked learning ranges from medicine industry to city development. I am PhD student working on development of smart cities in developing nations and a lot of smartness in smart cities is brought by technology. World wide web and access to cheap internet has opened up a number of avenues to increase the efficiency not just in delivering the final product but also in the planning and development phase. Moreover,  web based/app based platforms provide us a medium to collaborate as well as coordinate our efforts to achieve products which are efficient and better than the available products.  there are platforms being designed where the implementers including the municipalities can interact with their peers and get critiques as well as suggestions for improvement, in addition to directing them to resources where the issues can be resolved.  

Current understanding of pedagogy

As we all know, most of the time, the audience facing the educator in a classroom or in any other learning environment are novice to some of the subjects the educator covers. It is also obvious that learning is most effective when learners can easily digest the message that is being delivered to them. To handle the situation correctly, teachers need really good pedagogy which for me means a lot. It is a whole art, a passion, a way to deliver messages to an audience in a right way with ethic and authenticity. To me all what we do in live should be done with care, love and authenticity for a better outcome. Teaching requires an art to better satisfy the needs of learners. I love saying that my current understanding of pedagogy is still the one I had many years ago when I decided to look in a dictionary what the meaning of “Pedagogy” was because of somebody I liked the way he taught us. It was when I started secondary school and my cousin, who older than me while talking about the teaching skills of some our professors said “Oh that one has good pedagogy”. I know, I heard about the word “pedagogy” before. But what brought me to look at it that day was the fact that the professor she mentioned was so good at teaching. I wanted to learn more about him by looking at that qualifier my cousin used to describe him. who I admire and respect a lot like many other students. I still remember the passion, the art he used to put out there just to make us feel comfortable and understand everything he was covering. Today when I remember about this story it makes me have more admiration for all educators with good teaching skills who inspired me a lot and because of whom I did find out thing that was not paying attention to. For instance, the school we were in by that time my cousin and I was a private school called “Groupe Scolaire les Pédagogues”, with “pédagogue” meaning somebody who has the qualities of a good teacher, a good educator. I never wondered what the name of my school stands for but while looking for the word pedagogy, I also looked at other related words. I was later happy to tell to people who ask me that I was studying at les “Pédagogues”. That was a small story that I wanted to share as it did occur because of an educator’s talent and art of doing things, specially teaching in the right way. The question I have though is do people acquire pedagogy through learning or trough experience over time or it is just something some people born with, something natural in them? I am asking this question because of these reasons. 1.) There are many theories on good teaching strategies out there that did not exist let`s say twenty years ago and at the same time parents mainly older people are complaining that teaching is not done in a good way anymore. 2.) I used to hear people saying telling to others “you have the vocation to teach, or to be a lawyer, etc”.

First Blogpost

What stood out to me as I was getting ready to do this blog was my fear of using this online blogpost forum. I was more concentrated at first by making sure I could get this published than the content of what I was going to write about once I began, which is crazy (granted I need to make sure its published). I want to be one of those people whose finger is on the pulse of new technology, especially incorporating it into my educational best practices, but sadly, I have never been the forerunner for such online technology practices. What really stood out to me during this moment of anxiety, was George, the adorable baby from the Ted Talk. He didn’t know how to walk down the stairs but bygone if he didn’t keep trying and smiling while doing it (Wesch, 2016). Michael Wesch, the man giving the Ted Talk, shared that some have a narrow mind when it comes to learning and I realized (painstakingly) that it was me in this moment- I was being closed minded about the great online educational opportunities that were before my very eyes. Before this past summer, I had never taken an online class or used any other online education forum besides Blackboard or Canvas. I felt that in-person classes were more beneficial, which was closed minded of me considering, I had never taken an online class to prove that notion I created in my head. I needed to be more like George- just keep trying with new technology and web based learning until I become more comfortable. I am happy to report that one of the online courses I took this past summer was one of my favorite classes I have taken in graduate student career an thus changed my previous stance. An article from this week’s readings really stood out to me as I was reflecting on my fear of online and web based learning. I realized I needed to be more open minded with it all. The article was “Twitter and blogs are not just add-ons to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion underpinning it” by Tim Hitchcock. Hitchcock states “we all want to have ‘impact’” (2014). This resonated to me because I think as an inspiring student affairs professional, I want to make sure the work I am doing is helping to “contributes to a better world” (Hitchcock, 2014). What I am learning is that blogs are a great way to accomplish that and leave a footprint so to speak. It would never occur to me to blog about the work I am doing, however, this article made greats points that are changing my opinion on this. For an academic, it is a great space to put oneself out there and get a buzz going for the work they are doing and creating. However, I do sympathize with the notion Hitchcock states about “ a lot of early career scholars, in particular, worry that exposing their research too early, in too public a manner, will either open them to ridicule, or allow someone else to ‘steal’ their ideas” (Hitchcock, 2014). Posting things online does open you up to a lot of potential criticism; I know I am told all the time that what I am posting could affect future job opportunities if the institution does not like what my online presence says. I think that academic blogs could be a great asset to bolster your work but if what you research write about could be considered controversial or doesn’t align 100% with an institution you want to work for, it could put you at risk for discrimination in the job hiring process. On the other hand, I think it could help you have more name recognition if people stumble across your work or someone tweets it out. I think that there are pros and cons to both. Another salient point Hitchcock talks about in this article was how when asking students to blog publically for class it helps them to write better (2014). I know as I write this, the fact that my class colleagues are also reading this makes me a tad more nervous to write this. However, I agree with Hitchcock’s notion that when the writing is more public, it “forces you to think a little harder about the reader, and to think a little harder about the standards of record keeping and attribution that underpin your research” (2014). I know in the online course I took this past summer, we blogged a lot about the subject and I felt it does open you up for good and bad criticism. I know I really took time to reflect on and edit what I was writing as it was going to be seen by my peers. I really like the idea that this online blogging can open up the ability for others to comment and interact with your writing and work create a great avenue for discussions and perhaps could give you another way to look at something. It builds for great learning partnerships and connections. Hitchcock, T. Twitter and blogs are not just add-ons to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion underpinning it. (2015, July 27). Retrieved from Wesch, M. (2016, April 15). TEDxMHK. Retrieved August 26, 2018, from

The Digitalized Academia

The time spent online by an average American is about 24 hours. It is more than the half of the full work-hours in a week. The internet has become a necessity rather than a luxury. This infographic describes in detail the online consumption habits of different age groups. Without any surprise, the Gen Z (born after 2000) consumes the most amount of content online. Hence, the social media is used extensively to influence the Gen Y and Gen Z. The content available can have an impact. Increasing the presence of academics online can make a big difference. With the research out in the open, people would not have to wait for the media organizations to pick some ‘hot’ topics or research. With wide knowledge of the research, it will not only help in the collaboration but will also help in the direct inclusion of the community that might be affected by the research. This changes the thinking of the researchers. Pedagogical methods would become different. As the community will be more open, the resources and needs can be understood better. As George Kuh recommends in his “high-impact practices“, the idea of education should be of inquiry, and learning. The practices were written in 2008, hence, digitalization and its impact is not well incorporated in them. But, as mentioned earlier, the online habits have changed dramatically over the years. Gardner Campbell has captured its importance in detail in the article on networked learning. Digital_Transformation.jpg Blogging gives the opportunity to indulge better in discussion with the community members. As more people from academia start doing it, it will become a regular thing and not restricted to specialists. When people from all walks of life will be taking part in the discussion, there will be more meaning to the learning and research. Diversity and inclusiveness will have to become a necessary element in everything. It will allow the education to grow. The learning will be more “humanity” and “reality” based. However, it is easier said than done. There are two factors that may deter the people concerned. First, it is a big responsibility. When someone states something, they should mean it. It may be tiring for some to answer the people who are there just to kill the time. Next, the online presence may have to be increased which may take a toll on the professional and personal life. As we are already spending about 24 hours after the 40 hours of work, the time spent on essential things may change and can have an adverse impact. It can certainly be avoided with proper planning, however, at times, it becomes difficult to manage. The overall positive of ‘going online’ may be overshadowed by the negative, if things go astray.

How many times can you afford to fail?

Blogging? As a class requirement? Ugh…one more writing task for a doctoral student muddling through the process of writing the dissertation chapters! As excited as I am about my research, I find the day to day struggle of articulating my research findings and improvising the writings of my papers in a scholarly fashion (currently working on the thirty-seventh draft) to be exhausting. Relative to that, blogging sounds exciting. All I have to do is express my thoughts!  It cannot be that hard ! I can stop being an Economist for a while–  such a relief! Since setting up the blog last Friday night (while bailing on my fellow graduate students and the first happy hour of the semester), all I have been doing is “blogging”…in my mind! …sitting by the pond and talking with the ducks as my imaginary students, …going over my twitter feed and having an outburst on Sara’s reply, …having a serious conversation with a fellow coworker about our passion for teaching on Saturday afternoon over sushi, I had been bubbling with excitement…thinking of WHAT I would write, HOW would I write it, WHY I would bring up my passion (and predicament, too!)  about learning and teaching, relevant REFERENCES I might incorporate in my blog post etc…when suddenly out of the foggy memories from the past, a quote by Thomas Carlyle from the Series of Great Ideas of Western Man emerged : “… let each become all that he was created capable of being: expand, if possible, to his full growth; and show himself at length in his own shape and stature, be these what they may.” I have found this quote profound and extremely relatable to the concept  of “Rethinking Learning” according to Dr. Michael Wesch’s TEDx talk. Cultivating unique learning opportunities with an understanding and acknowledgment of the unique potential can bring enormous value and enhance the educational experiences of the learners. While we consider learning outcome to be a function of the number of students in a classroom setting, meaningful interaction between the educators and students, time spent in learning etc. , we would all agree that the process of learning is highly heterogeneous and that the associated learning curve varies from learner to learner. As I, an economist studying decision-making, have been trying to write, one question has continually bothered me is:  How many failed attempts could a learner afford? From the perspective of a learner, when we enter a classroom or a learning space, we not only bring in our passion, excitement and ambition, but also the tremendous burden of payment for school and getting a job after graduation. As Graduate students, we face inordinate challenges and pressure throughout the process of learning and thriving as professionals. The learning brain is often constrained by such challenges and creates reverse tolerance of failures. As much as I enjoyed baby George making his final leap after falling off numerous times each failure throughout the graduate school experience, often comes with an overwhelming cost of staying additional time in school and an associated loss of earnings both of which add to the existing burden that we carry with us until we reach the peak of our full potential, as a part of the educational experience. Can we overlook these factors at play? At the end of the day, aren’t we all trying to make the best out of the situation given our constraints? Isn’t it about how many times and to what extent of failure we are able to afford?      
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