It takes a village. . . .

Thank goodness for my Network!

As I constructed my Mind Map, the depth and breadth of my dependence on my network quite surprised me.  It reminded me of the African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.”  It takes my whole network to help me learn. The visualization further reinforces the necessity of networks; both human (friends/family/peers) and non-human (digital tools/books) for effective self-directed learning. This network has radically changed the way I learn today from the way I learned before.

Twenty years ago, when I was in college, my primary—and most of the time the only network was my instructor.  My source of information for understanding/learning the course material was limited to the class lecture notes and textbooks.  Access to the instructor outside of school hours was not feasible, particularly to adult students, working full time and attending school in the evening.  School libraries (where most of supplemental sources were available) catered to the full time students’ schedule, which was, primarily the daytime hours.  So, if I did not understand the subject being taught—well, too bad!  By the time I graduated (grueling 9 years), I pledged never to return to school unless I could do it full time.  Little did I know that technological leap would “boldly” take me where I had never gone before!

Leaping twenty years forward—the birth of the Internet has made it possible for me to pursue a higher education.  This technological leap has allowed me access (and communication) to sources I never conceived possible.  The capacity and opportunity to direct my own learning has become unprecedented.  I have access to a computer—crucial.  I have an abundance of information at my disposal, via the Internet, through Walden, YouTube videos, blogs, articles, books, social media sites, emails, classmates, and discussion boards.  I can consult with friends, family members, and colleagues for the information I am looking for.  They may not necessarily know the answer but undoubtedly they can direct me to a source (a network) where I can get the information.  My instructor is always available for guidance, support, and feedback.  Should I encounter computer (hardware/software) problems, technical support is a phone call away.  Sometimes it is unfathomable to think how far and fast we have progressed technologically.

My network learning has also heightened my independence for learning—meaning that I have the option to decide which source to pick and how to use the source for learning.  I have more flexibility and convenience.  For the most part, I choose the best time and place to conduct my learning (within the given course parameters).  I also realize that with self-directed learning, I bear a greater responsibility of ensuring that I learn.

Apple all the way…..

I like simplicity.  And so far, nothing beats the intuitive, uncluttered, responsive, and user-friendly design of Apple computers to facilitate productive learning (or working).  In terms of software, for the most part I use Microsoft Word, and Outlook (Entourage).  I used MindNode for the first time in this assignment.  I am looking forward to learning the Adobe package commencing with our Instructional Design course next semester.

My Network and Connectivism…..

My network is my reference source so that the information I need for learning does not all have to reside in my head—I don’t need to memorize it and know it all at once.  But when I need it, I know where and how to get it.  As Siemens (2006) noted, “The externalization of our knowledge is increasingly utilized as a means of coping with information overload.  The growth and complexity of knowledge requires that our capacity for learning resides in the connections we form with people and information, often mediated or facilitated with technology. “

One of the principles of Connectivism is that “learning and knowledge rest in diversity of opinions.”  Davis, Edmunds & Kelly-Bateman (2008).  I believe this to be true.  My network consists of a diverse group of individuals with different experiences, knowledge, and social/cultural backgrounds; and each network has its own network (separate from mine).  And so, the potential for the amount of information available at my disposal and the capacity to “know” is astronomical.

Another principle of Connectivism is that of information Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge). Davis, Edmunds & Kelly-Bateman (2008).  In my prior learning environment, the learning materials available to me were primarily course textbooks that were usually outdated.  By the time, I graduated, most of what I had learned, particularly in the Computer Science discipline, had become obsolete.  By contrast, in today’s learning environment, the latest and the greatest information is just a Google (or a network) away.  As yet, another tenet of Connectivism states, “Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.” Davis, Edmunds & Kelly-Bateman (2008), it is critical to form networks—I might even suggest that it is unavoidable.

Thank you for reading.  I look forward to your comments.

Marta

References:

Connectivism – A learning theory for today’s learner – http://www.connectivism.ca/about.html.

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008).  Connectivism.  In M. Orey (Ed).  Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology.  Retrieved March 25, 2012.

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008).  Connectivism:  Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/523/1103

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: Learning as Network-Creation http://elearnspace.org/Articles/networks.htm

Siemens, G. (2006).  Connectivism, Learning Theory or Pastime for the Self-Amused?” http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism_self-amused.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map

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