Public + Private Community Spaces: Week Four Reflections

Last week I asked what connected learning would look like in a humanities course. I found my answer through Dr. Laura Gibbs, who teaches online courses for the University of Oklahoma in mythology and folklore and epics of Ancient India. Dr. Gibbs doesn’t lecture at all – she aggregates resources, provides structure, and an assignment to blog, comment, and revise. Students read through collected (free, open) fables and myths, and many blogging assignments revolve around rewriting these narratives.

Some thoughts:

  • This course is largely writing-based. While writing instruction isn’t the focus, it is an outcome. In this interview, Dr. Gibbs says it was hard to connect with students writing in the classroom, and the move online was natural. As everyone probably knows by now, I work primarily with writing faculty, including some who tell me that writing can only be taught with pen and paper. I’m just happy to hear a counter-narrative.
  • Her courses are built using a variety of platforms which have changed over time. If you take the time to look through some of her courses, you will find places where content was once on a Google Doc and now lives elsewhere, or in the above video she talks about moving from Ning to Blogger. I think there is a reason that “design for evolution” is the first design principle for communities of practice listed in Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder (2002). Flexibility – in terms of content AND structure – is key to ensuring a successful CoP.
  • The first week of both courses serves as an orientation to how students will learn in the course, not content. Students are responsible for designing their own assignments, schedule, even grade – taking “inviting student input into course design” to the next level and creating an environment that supports transformative learning (Gauthier, 2016). Dr. Gibbs also has students read and reflect on growth mindset learning theory – supporting metacognition by explicitly having students think about their own learning.
  • Dr. Gibbs on her own role as instructor: “I spend a lot of time building the space, collecting resources…like managing a three ring circus.” She offers lots of framing and feedback, but even grading is largely responsibility of students.

Switching gears to talk more about communities of practice (but not really, since that is exactly what the above course is) – I have found that the most useful CoP for me is the cohort of this course, rather than the other CoP’s I have explored over the past few weeks. Two main reasons I think I have learned more here than elsewhere:

  1. Structure and rhythm – Expectations and scaffolding are more explicit within a course structure. Pretty obvious observation, but one worth thinking about. So much of learning is motivation, so if I am the type of learner that needs that context to thrive, a CoP that is more designed and scheduled is going to help me engage more thoroughly.
  2. Public and private community spaces – Writing this blog has really transformed my learning this course, and is something I think Bethany should maybe think about implementing the length of the certificate! Defining my own learning goals has been key, and reflecting in this less-constrained space has allowed me to really think about connections and past learning. I feel a more concrete sense of “knowledge building” week to week.

One final thing I wanted to share re: communities of practice was Howard Rheingold’s (one of the founders of Connected Learning Alliance) Peeragogy Handbook. “Peeragogy” is a model for peer learning and peer knowledge production – I haven’t gotten the chance to explore too deeply, but to me it seems like a CoP that supports developing rich CoP’s! The handbook is linked with Hypothesis, a tool for annotating web content, so it is a live document, and they also have an active Google+ community.

Week 4 Resources

Connected Learning Alliance, “Teaching the Humanities Online”

Dr. Laura Gibbs, MLLL 3043 Mythology and Folklore of the World

Dr. Laura Gibbs, Mythology and Folklore UN-Textbook and Storybook blog (student final projects)

The Peeragogy Handbook

Connectivism + Connected Learning in Week Three

This week was all about finding the value in connectivism, and battling the cold that won’t quit. Apologies for posting a day late, hopefully some of the grogginess has passed and I am ready to work through my learning from last week.

Learning Goals

I actually began the week exploring some of the different instructional theories exploring blending formal and informal learning, most notably, connected learning. I had been exposed to Mimi Ito a little bit in library school, but haven’t heard much about connected learning since. In a connected learning model, a learner exists within a personal learning network, and learning takes place through connecting people and information within that network. This network expands beyond the classroom, and there is an emphasis on integrating experiences, collaborations, and resources from a multitude of sources.

Immediately “learning as a network” brought to mind connectivism – learning as a process of connecting information within a network, and choosing “what” to learn is key, rather than specific content knowledge. I agree with some basic connectivist tenets: informal learning is important part of our learning experience, and learning is a life-long process. However, connectivism seems mostly about “learning literacy” – learning how to learn most effectively, how to evaluate information, and so on. While this is certainly a useful 21st century skill, I still believe it must be combined with more constructivist approaches to create successful learners.

Through my reading I think connected learning seems to do just that, combining connectivism with experiential learning to create a constructivist, networked learning process. According to Rob Reynolds, “The Promise of Connected Learning,” connected learning experiences are all:

  • participatory – learners connect to content based on common goals and interests, and engage through shared learning activities
  • interactive – learning is production-centered across multiple modes of expression
  • openly networked – learners should be linked together with peers, instructors, and other learning communities

Some questions that I hope to puzzle through this week:

  • Connected learning seems especially well suited to certain disciplines, especially sciences and practical fields such as nursing, dental, social work, etc. where real-life scenarios are essential to learning. What does connected learning look like in a humanities classroom? Is it digital humanities? Is it public history?
  • What does assessment look like in a connected learning model? I imagine a combination of reflection and learning analytics measuring activity and engagement within the network. What actions would we collect data on specifically?
  • How do we keep learning rigorous when dealing with individual personal learning networks?

I’m working on a concept map that connects the multiple theories I’ve been learning about this week. If anyone has any additional theories or resources that investigate blending formal and informal learning, I’d be glad to hear of them. Adaptive learning is a theory that popped up in my reading, so I will be adding that to learning goals for next week.

Communities of Practice

In terms of CoP, I’ve been looking into the Linked In Higher Education group suggested to me by James last week – I have just been accepted and hope to find it a little more active and relevant than the other communities I’ve joined. I’ve found that even though I haven’t gotten much out of interactions with other CoP members, I have found other useful communities – and plenty of resources. Much of my reading this week was found on Educause (all my reading is linked below), and through Shift eLearning I found the Cult of Pedagogy blog. While K-12 focused, I have found her simple explanations of instructional and learning theories easy to follow and understand. She also offers a plethora of instructional strategies and digital tools that are easily adapted to a higher education environment.

In terms of interacting with other ID throughout the past three courses, I think what has been the most helpful to me is seeing how other instructional designers revise and edit their work each week. Seeing how they apply theory and our reading into practice has really helped me think about how to do the same with my own courses. Within my own office, this draft and revision process is not nearly as transparent. It has definitely pushed me to ask more questions of my colleagues, and to share my work at multiple stages instead of just final products.

Week 3 Resources

Educause, “7 things you should know about Connected Learning”

Educause, “The Connected Learning Environment”

Rob Reynolds, “The Promise of Connected Learning”

Siemens, George (2005, January 1). “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age“. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, Vol. 2 No. 1