Online learning is not effective learning

If networked learning is the direction for the future of learning, then I believe that it must overcome the same problem that networking has struggled to shed. Networking events have dominated the business and science world as ways for professionals to cultivate productive relationships for future employment or business. Some of the problems of networking are … Continue reading Online learning is not effective learning

The Importance of Digital Sharing

Today’s system of education is still structured in the ways John Dewey warned could lead to a totalitarian regime in the United States. Chairs in a room, arranged in rows and columns so all the students face the front of the class room. At the front stands the teacher. This teachers holds the power to spoon feed the students any information the teacher deems important. All the student need to do is memorize and then, on test day, regurgitate the facts on paper. Is this learning or a memory game? John Dewey envisioned open class rooms that taught children based on interests of the individual, not the institution. This system is put into actual teaching methods across the country but tends to end at the university level. Many classes, if not most, at the undergraduate level are taught in the rigid rows and columns fashion. The professor drones on for 50 to 115 minutes while students avoid repeated cramps in their hands as they attempt to take notes at a pace resembling a starship traveling at warp speed. Other students attempt some form of telepathic learning that is accomplished through a sleeping state while in the class room. Either way, what the heck makes us endure that form of mental anguish to earn or ‘get’ a grade? Well there are options out there. The readings by Gardner Campbell, Doug Belshaw, and Tim Hitchcock enlighten the educators as to possibilities of new forms of not just teaching but the sharing of information with students, peers, and the general public. The use of digital platforms such as blogs, twitter, vlogs, and the like allow for information to be shared at an instant. Immediate feedback allows for ideas to be planted, nurtured, pruned, and then cultivated as strongly rooted concepts for all to enjoy. Why do academic institutions not encourage these options? Why is it restricted to a class called contemporary pedagogy? Why not call it “alternative pedagogical practices for those not tenured and wanting to actually educate rather than just teach”? (I mean no offense to tenured professors, many I have found to be wonderful educators) The use of digital platforms does not remove the people engaged in the online discussion but rather can draw them together. This is the message of this first week of reading and it is a message that should be shared broadly and very often to remind all that teaching is not a job to be endured between academic publications by an exciting way to impact the future through those sitting in your class room.

Cyberspace is NOT Culture-Free!

Networked learning facilitates the relationship between digital technologies and education and learning1. The central concept in network learning is the connections. Connections include interactions between the user, digital technologies, and resources. However, the question is whether all interactions with technologies constitute networked learning. In other words, despite a growing demand for efficient ways of using networked learning to enhance student learning in higher education, do you think the networked learning initiative reach the point is designed for? My answer is “NO”! I think there are challenges in networked learning concept, developing, and maintaining connections with digital technologies that it still cannot be considered as add-ons to the academic research.

Misusing the digital technologies: This semester I am a TA for a class (~100 undergraduate/graduate students). The instructor does not let the student use computers during the class for any purposes. Students must silent and stow away their cellphones, tablets, and laptops during class meetings. Do you know what the result was? Students engaged more in discussions, took notes, and listened carefully. This makes me think that what are the differences between the classes use the digital technologies and those focus on traditional instructor-student technique in term of level of student learning. I talked to the instructor, and he clarified his intent by explaining that digital technologies disadvantages are more than advantages. He believes that digital technologies make distractions and the students misuse these technologies. I agree with him. To overcome this challenge and increase learning, the central question is how to inspire the student to use digital technologies for learning purpose? And how to teach them to use these technologies in a right way?

Lack of trust in cyberspace: Moreover, in higher education, most of the graduate students and scholars worry that sharing their research in public through cyberspace will allow another scholar to steal their ideas3. Their concerns come from lack of trust in cyberspace and cultural deficiency in using e these technologies.

Miscommunications: All of us suddenly are fallen into the digital technology era without knowing the basics of handling effective public communication. There are several instances of miscommunication in cyberspace information exchange between culturally diverse learners2 which not only not increase learning but also impoverish the learning. After inspiring students to use digital technologies to enhance learning, it is essential that student learn how to solve the misunderstanding, pave miscommunications, and facilitate interactions and learning through networked-learning technologies.

All of the factors I have discussed in this blog reinforce the role of culture in networked learning. On the other hand, it is undeniable that our culture also “absorbed a range of new media platforms and practices.”4. So, to keep up with the relative rapidity of change in digital technologies platforms being used, facilitate developing and sharing knowledge, and underpin practical pedagogical knowledge in a networked learning environment, all of us must learn the culture of using these platforms accurately. But how?





The Time Has Come to Blog

I must admit, I am incredibly apprehensive about blogging. I have tried it before, with little investment in the outcome. Doing something for class credit without fully understanding the scope and importance of the task makes it difficult to immerse yourself into the activity. This is without a doubt my own experience with my first blog. It felt forced. As if I needed to check the boxes and just “get it over with”. Despite my lack of desire to engage in the blogging assignment, I attempted to at least passionately write my thoughts about the topic at hand. It became easier as time went on, and I did enjoy having a space to share these thoughts.

My thoughts on random topics, however, felt akin to the times when LiveJournal was popular. A digital space to share your thoughts, it became more like a diary that was shared with the whole world. Clearly, professional blogging is much different than the LiveJournal diary spelling out the details of a scorned relationship. This is where I struggle with the benefits of blogging. Tom Peters, author and management visionary, raves about blogging, claiming nothing  has been important in his life than blogging. Tim Hitchcock, Professor of Digital History at the University of Sussex, similarly encourages professionals to engage in blogging. In academia, this practice seems to be an opportunity to take part in a larger public discussion on the topics at hand.

Still, despite the growing trend of blogging professionals, I am not sold on the benefit for me. Sure, there are many in my field (marriage and family therapy) that participate in regular blogging. And certainly many academics participate in various digital ways via Twitter and Facebook. But, what do I have to say? Who would listen? Who would care? Is this yet another sign indicative of my imposter syndrome?

Do the answers to any of these questions really matter in the long run? Seth Godin has said that it doesn’t matter if anyone reads your posts. Instead, what matters is the process- engaging in humility and metacognition of your ideas. I certainly would benefit from strengthening these skills in order to better communication my thoughts (and writing) on my research and profession. Perhaps the time has come to finally invest in an official blog- outside of the classroom.



Hitchcock, T. (2014, July 28). Twitter and blogs are not just add-ons to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion underpinning it [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

[innerpreneur]. (2009, April 18). Seth Godin & Tom Peters on blogging [Video File]. Retrieved from



Higher Education Isn’t Child’s Play

When we are little, we learn every day. And it is fun! We learn to count, talk, tie our shoes, feed ourselves, etc … and each and every time we learn something new, it is the best thing that has ever happened! As baby George demonstrated, we even had fun when we failed ~ because failing is also learning, and learning is fun! As we age, learning becomes more tedious, likely because we are judged based how “well” we learn. When we are little, every time we fall or say the alphabet incorrectly, it is cute, we are encouraged to try again by smiling faces, and learning is an adventure (as Kuh states). But later, grades, report cards, and awards make children think of learning as a chore. Something that they have to do in order to succeed. Unfortunately, most of the times when students “fail” at something in a class, there isn’t a smiling face and the reassurance of another chance to try again.

Many argue that we learn everyday even as adults. But how often do adults think that learning is fun? For example, if someone says “Hey – Erin! Let’s do something fun today! What would you like to do?” Even as someone who likes school, my standard responses to this question include “go see a movie,” “go bowling” or “go out to a nice restaurant.” Although I do thoroughly enjoy learning, it often seems to me that me, and presumably the rest of us in academia, are the minority because learning goes from:

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Image result for try not to have a good time ... this is supposed to be educational

In my opinion, using social media and blogging is a way to make learning fun again. It allows people to express themselves in often a less formal manner than typical “academic” writing. This, at least for me, takes off a lot of the stress involved with writing. Additionally, posting writing online via Facebook, blogging, Twitter etc encourages people to write well – as nobody wants to appear “stupid” to the masses. Overall, I believe that using tools such as blogging is increasingly important in today’s working world. It is not just for the youngest generation either – people of all ages are blogging and using social media to communicate with others. It will be really interesting to see how online networking continues to grow over the next decade and how it may bring fun back into education!

To Blog or not to Blog

In Composition Pedagogy, a pedagogy class I took as part of my M.A. in English here at Virginia Tech, our class often discussed how teachers might develop projects that gave student writing a meaningful, real-world audience.

While teaching writing I often had students write Letters to the Editor. But just changing the genre of an assignment — from persuasive essay to Letter to the Editor — doesn’t automatically give students a real-world audience or experience. I would frequently require students submit their letter to a local newspaper, making the assignment something that existed outside the classroom bubble.

A blog could offer the same kind of opportunity, but unless students can identify a real-world audience the blog would continue to be just another assignment. After all, just because a blog exists on the internet does not mean it will be read.

So how can a class assignment become a real-world blog for undergraduates? Students automatically have an audience of their peers and friends via social media, but I don’t expect students to share a school assignment unless it is something they are both passionate about and proud of. So, my question becomes: How can students become passionate about blogging? I’ve taught 200-level and 300-level literature courses. Generally, students in those courses are already excited about what we are learning. But can teachers help students get excited about introductory or required courses? Within the context of what we cover in the course, there must be enough freedom for students to find something that sparks their interest, and how they are directed to respond to the content must be permissive enough not to restrict their interest.

Networked Learning

After reading Gardner Campbell’s Networked Learning As Experiential Learning, based on George Kuh’s work, I find myself having more questions. Kuh states that experiential learning includes mostly co-curricular activities such as: research, internships, service, and study abroad. However Campbell challenges Kuh for not including networked learning within experiential learning. With the digital age of education, Campbell asks, “Why not offer students an experience of the sense of exhilarating possibility within the cyberspace they take for granted, the cyberspace that LMSs and apps have begun to remove from our view?”

Campbell believes that the current generation of students does not have a vast knowledge of the internet and social media. Additionally, networked learning should provide learning beyond a traditional education. I see benefits to distance-learners by providing courses online and peer-to-peer learning through blogs and e-portfolios. However, I do not believe that the internet should be the only way to create experiential learning. Campbell seems unclear about how exactly to promote experiential learning and does not give concrete examples. Maybe Campbell’s beliefs are meant to be open to more interpretation. The author also seems concerned only with students in higher education. What about people who are not currently enrolled in a institution of higher education? It does not seem that Campbell has considered people who do not have access to education in a traditional classroom. There should also be consideration for continued learners.

Thoughts on Networked Learning

I have to be honest and say that I didn’t know what networked learning was nor have I ever heard of it before reading the assignments for this week. After doing a little research of my own as well, I think I understand networked learning to be a type of collaborative learning that uses social media such as blogging on Twitter. This got me thinking about how my lab and others currently share knowledge gained from research in the academic setting. Most of our publications are read by scientists and researchers through journals and only limited to the audience of that journal (so it may not reach disciplines outside that particular field of study). I started to think about how Using public social media I like Twitter and blogging could potentially lead to more people receiving knowledge gained from your research, spreading this information and expanding on it. After this reflection, I feel students can highly benefit from practicing networked learning in the classroom setting. I really like the analogy from the baby George video of how the whole class climbed this mountain together each time pulling the whole class onto a plateau before going to the next assignment. I agree with the speaker when he said how we’re always talking about the real world on the outside but we need to start bringing the real world to the inside and networked/collaborative learning is a way to do that. Take for example doing a dissertation. We are encouraged to develop and conduct our own projects and write our own chapters/publications where very little of any type of collaboration is involved. In the “real world” research is now moving towards networking and collaboration and grants/publications are regarded as higher quality when a variety of researchers are included.

Blogging…the running of the internet

Based on the readings from this week, creating a digital presence is one of the best ways to engage yourself and your audience with your materials whether it be research or coursework. One of the ways we’re practicing a well rounded digital presence this semester is through blogging.

If I’m being honest, blogging is not something that comes easy to me. As an entomology PhD student, most of my written communication about my own research is in passive voice, and that is far from engaging for a general audience. Considering my lack of experience, my plan for this semester is to treat blogging like running.

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I have been an runner on and off for the better part of four years, and running for the first time or starting back after a break is always difficult and uncomfortable. It’s hard to know when to breathe and what pace works, but at some point, usually about a month into it, an internal flip switches. The discomfort gets replaced by a steady rhythm. There are still days where it’s difficult, but for the most part, it becomes a second nature.

I’m hoping that blogging will follow a similar pattern. The first few weeks might feel a bit shaky and strained. Finding my voice might feel a bit like finding a rhythm and building up strength, but at some point, I’m hoping for that internal switch.

By the end of the course, I want to take the practice of blogging about classroom topics and expand it into blogging about my own research. Building a foundation of digital engagement as a graduate student would hopefully provide for a smooth transition of digital engagement as a professor.

Permanent, yet ephemeral: conversing on social media platforms

Tim Hitchcock blogged about the changing platform of public discourse, and the academic’s role, in his post titled, “Twitter and blogs are not just add-ons to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion underpinning it.”Over the past few decades, discourse between academics and the public has transformed away from print newspapers, monographs, and journal articles, toward online interaction. Hitchcock thinks academics need to lean into this transformation, rather than fight against it—the world is changing and communication will be difficult if academics do not acknowledge the need to adapt. I agree with this point, but I want to respond to Hitchcock’s blog post because I think the advice that academics adapt to changing modes of communication is not such a simple task as moving from paper to the the keyboard.

One difference between traditional modes of communication and electronic modes of communication is the permanence of information. While journal articles and monographs, for example, retain permanence through publication, intellectual conversations that happen in person are not archived the same way. Journal articles and monographs are planned, drafted, revised, and then published—conversations happen in the moment. We have all likely heard the advice, “be careful what you post online, you can never take it back.” In other words, even if you delete a comment you posted on Facebook, the Facebook servers still have a record of your comment. Or another possibility, someone could have screenshot your comment and reposted it. Even if the reposter deletes their post, someone else may have already reposted their post.

My concern is that, if intellectual conversations that used to be in the moment and unarchived, are suddenly archivable and understood to be permanent, individuals may be less likely to engage in conversation as freely as they might in person. I worry this will happen, because they may feel that, since they have the time to sit behind their computer and makes changes before ‘speaking,’ they will feel pressure to speak perfectly. Some people, I think will take on this challenge. Good for them. But I think others may feel overwhelmed by this task, feeling they will be permanently represented by something they said at one point in time, tethering their online identity to one moment of their life. What if they change their mind?

On the flip side, conversations can be manipulated so that they are visually ephemeral. For example, some people have likely had the experience of engaging in a long conversation on Reddit or Facebook, or another online social platform, and later found that another participant in the conversation deleted their contribution to the conversation. If an individual feels that their contribution to the conversation was not appreciated or reflected accurately, or they were attacked, they can delete their contributions. Of course, it is never really deleted—Facebook or Reddit still has the data, and remember, someone could have reposted it before it was deleted. However, deleting one’s contribution to the conversation still works to conceal what they said from many other users of the social media platform.

I think that the same can be said for blogging. While blogging is not typically thought of as a social media platform, it technically is one if blogs are a place for intellectual conversations to take place. While the conversation may not happen in the same format or pace as those that happen on Facebook or Twitter, blogs can be manicured in the same way that social media conversations can.

I certainly do not think blogging should be written off given the concerns I have expressed over online conversations. However, as humans grow and adapt to our changing world, it is important that we acknowledge the changes that result from the advancements in communication—such as speed, access, and complexity; we should critique the ways our communication is stifled by these advancements, just as we should lean into and celebrate them.

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