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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Presentation at Teachmeet we hosted @MHS/ Focus #2

Standards: 6.1; 6.2; 6.3; 6.4; 7.1; 7.4

(This post was written as a transcript of a short presentation I gave at a Melbourne TeachMeet at Melbourne High School 12 September 2015).

How do you really get to know people in an online course? Ask a child! What would a child do? A child would play.

And so we did in Rhizo15, the connected MOOC. It was new to me and I loved every minute.

I wanted to be playful so I wrote a play. In response to the weekly prompt: “Learning subjectives: designing for when you don’t know where you’re going.”

I was unsure about how people would feel about the play – and if they would read it at all – so I was surprised when I received lots of positive comments (blog comments don’t always happen for me) and Terry Elliott suggested we make it into a radio play. Simon Ensor added the comment: “I second Terry. I’m in for rhizoradio or other play. Do we have to do casting for the role of Mr X or do we crowdcast?”

I felt encouraged and sent out an invitation to a Google Doc so we could write the play collaboratively.

Hello there. My name is Tania Sheko. Thanks for responding so positively to this short piece of fiction/non-fiction. I’m taking up the suggestion to create something for #rhizoradio (suggested by Terry Elliott and seconded by Simon Ensor) and other suggestions to do a collaborative rewrite eg include a larger cast so we can actually (somehow) create a podcast for #rhizoradio (which is going to be a thing I think). Hope you can join me here!
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1oBqaFkUkRgirz-l8jhh4RKSEGfmLr4j649kJKKGirFg/edit

But how would we bring everyone together to produce the radio play/podcast?

Maha (from Cairo) was thinking about a live reading:

It’s near impossible to organize across timezones but if you sleep really late and I wake really early we might catch the ppl in the US 😉 or the opposite, if u wake really early and I sleep really late we can make it at a good time for everyone. Usually around 10pm my time that’s 2pm EDT and I think early-ish morning for you?

In the end we decided to record our own parts on SoundCloud and send the file to Kevin Hodgson who generously took the time to put it all together.

Other things also happened – you can’t keep up with the rhizome. Actually, so much happened while I was sleeping last night:

Autumm Caines created a really neat video promo.

Autumm used the image created by Angela Brown in Pulp-O-Mizer.

Kevin Hodgson used Thinglink for his promo.

Sarah Honeychurch had fun remixing a popular Christmas tune for her promo.

Here’s the final version of the play (although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Google doc version continues to evolve).

My THANK YOU:
My original story, Mr X loses his battle for objectivity, has been stormed, hacked and now exists as an evolved creation belonging to those playing and learning in the rhizome (#rhizo15). It is no longer mine and that’s a fantastic thing, something I’m excited about. Thank you, everyone, for the experience – in particular to Kevin for putting together the audio files – but also to those contributing voices, to the voices in the chat comments for the evolving Google doc, to those on Twitter and other social media platforms, to the creative people designing promos, and anyone else I’ve forgotten.  I know it sounds as if I’m accepting an Oscar (haha) but I really do want to thank all of you for the fun we’ve had together.

#Rhizoradio presents a radio play courtesy of the #rhizo15 community:

A Multitude of Voices

(aka) Mr X loses his battle for objectivity ( original unevolved title fromthe original story)

Was this a success in educational terms? We had fun!

Maha: it was some of the BEST fun I ever had… wish I could find a way to encourage my students to do something like this of their own initiative, but that’s not thinking rhizomatically… so I should think of how to create an environment that encourages the spirit of this kind of thing and see what emerges from their work!!!

We unpacked rhizomatic learning collaboratively and creatively. We got to know each other through play. We were amazed by each other – as each person initiated ideas and created things because they were inspired to do so. We keep in touch – in subsequent MOOCs, through hashtag conversations on Twitter. We reach out to each other with questions and challenges. We jump in when we see requests for collaboration and opportunities to do things together. I learned about different tech tools but more importantly why and how to use them. I added their blogs to my Inoreader, so I could keep reading them, I followed them on Twitter and made sure I added a Tweetdeck column to see what they were saying/doing, I explored what else they did online eg Soundcloud, Slideshare, Google +, in Facebook groups, and wherever else they were.

Don’t tell me that you can’t form friendships online.

After the presentations when we had the opportunity to chat at the pub (which is where all the great conversation takes place) someone said to me that they were expecting me to talk about risk when showing them how I shared my play, not knowing how people would respond. I could definitely have talked about risk and so many other things but the 7 minutes didn’t allow it.  Risk is part of play and creativity – you never know if what you share will be taken up, ignored or worse! What’s important in this situation is trust – trust that you know the people in your community well enough to be able to go out on a limb. That’s the difference between network and community in my opinion. Rhizo15 was (and still is) a community in which you got to know people well enough that you were able to take risks and be supported. In my case, my experimentation with the play as a way of playfully addressing the ‘learning subjectives’ was not only appreciated by people but they came in and played with me further. We remixed the play together and did so many other things that were creative and allowed people to bring their understanding and expertise to what is actually a serious academic context. Through play we achieved something we could not have done if we were just writing out our thoughts in a traditional way. I think there’s a lot more I could explore here about play, and that will have to wait.