The value of online connections and, yes, relationships/Social Media for 21st century learning/ Focus #2

Standards: 1.2; 2.3; 2.6; 4.1; 4.5; 6.1; 6.2; 6.3; 6.4; 7.4

Surely one of the best ways to understand how students learn is to become a learner yourself. If we’re preparing our students for their world then we need to practise some of the 21st century skills ourselves. When you take part in online courses you are using digital technologies to connect to others – wherever they are in the world – and you are learning how to communicate using contemporary language, adjusting style and tone, including other media to your text. You are also taking on the vulnerability that students experience when they share their ideas or write a creative piece.

Don’t tell me you cannot form a relationship online. Connected Courses, Rhizo15, CLMOOC – all of these MOOCs led to ongoing connections with people, some which I consider as friends. You can define friends in different ways, but when you know how a person thinks, what their interests and passions are, and you discuss with them what matters most to you in your personal and professional life – then you probably  know some of these people better than you know your colleagues at school.

What I do online always informs and enriches what I do as teacher librarian at school.

Case in point.

I met Laura Gibbs during a MOOC called Connected Courses and follow her on Twitter and Google +. Following someone is a lot more specific than it sounds. When you follow someone online you keep track of what they share – be that ideas, opinons, expertise, questions, or resources. In Laura’s case, apart from the richness of her shared expertise and resourcing, I have recently linked to her extensive online treasury of mythology, folklore and fairytales in a Libguide which I’ve shared with our English/Literature teachers. Laura’s life work resides in this collection and she is more than happy to share it rather than restrict it to her own students. In fact, she is excited that her work will be used by Australian students and teachers.

Laura is only one of the many people I’m happy to know online.  I recently reflected about the value of relationships on social media when preparing a 7 minute talk for the TeachMeet my colleagues and I are organising for tomorrow. The post is extensive and I’ve tried to capture the essence of why I value my social network.  You can read the post or look through the presentation below.

Maha Bali is another person I met online, someone I call friend. I’ve interacted with Maha through several MOOCs, regular Twitter conversations, and through my recent involvement with Maha’s incentive, Virtually Connecting. Maha has written a great post in which she thinks about what it actually means to know someone online.

I can “know” some people online, through their writing, better than people I know face-to-face in some ways. I’ve made wrong assumptions, sure, but that happens face-to-face as well.

Is it because online, text forces you to make some parts of your thinking more explicit? Is it the distortion of time/space that occurs online, that allows one to have a continuous conversation over days or weeks, during the wee hours of the morning, while in the car or at work or in bed, when our defenses are down? You can’t have that in real life except with a family member or roommate, and it would seem to be stifling to have it with that many people. But online, it’s not.

Amongst other things, Maha was part of a MOOC cohort (Connected Courses) which joined me in rewriting a short play I’d written – and we ended up recording our parts in a radio play – even though we lived in different parts of the world. That was one of the most creative and collaboratively satisfying things I’ve ever done! Wouldn’t it be amazing to enable our students to do something similar?

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