Me as ‘student’?

My Journey with Networked and Global Learning

In embarking on the writing of this post I have made several attempts to start but have continued to hit a stumbling block – the term ‘student’.  Strange, even ridiculous I know, but for someone who has spent most of her adult life in the active pursuit of knowledge it is a term I had never really considered as applying to me.  I readily identify as myself  both teacher and learner, so why not then, student?  Perhaps it is the hierarchical nature of the term, or perhaps I identify the term ‘student’ as a more formalised label attached to traditional schooling methods.  An interest nuance of terminology to ponder but perhaps best saved for another time when completion dates are looming!

The world of networked and global learning has, in short, changed by life!

I was first introduced to online learning in 2011 by our Resource Manager, or what the rest of the world would probably call our librarian, an amazing woman who sees great capacity in people!  She encouraged me to explore my interest in online technologies through the completion of two online course; ‘The How 2 of Web 2.0:Learning with Web 2.0″ (12 weeks) and ‘Web 2.o Extended” (6 weeks).  The first of these two courses centred around individual investigation and the creation of a blog through which to record your reflections and learnings.  The second was run through ‘Edmodo’ and took a similar format.  I love the opportunity to explore, but found it difficult to manage my time.  My personality can be quite obsessive at times, and I found it difficult to undertake ‘surface’ investigations and probably spent way too much time on each task.  That said, both programs gave me something that I had be missing up to that point…the opportunity to professional develop myself and the freedom to explore my interests and passions about education without the constrains of time, place and money (the nature of all PD I had experienced to that point).  These online learning experience breathed new life into me and my teaching, though I did become disheartened at times by the hinderance of people in authority who seemed to lack the knowledge or willingness to understanding much of what I was trying to accomplish in my classroom.

My second experience online learning came during my long service leave at the end of 2012 when I actually found time to read one of the Newsletters sent out by ISQ (Independent Schools Queensland).  I discovered that they were planning to sponsor a number of teacher to undertake the QELi Future Leader’s Program the following year.  Finding myself at one of those places in our lives where we question our value and future in our professions I made the decision to apply and this lead me to my first ‘real’ experience with online learning.

The program itself has minimal face-to-face sessions (one at the beginning and one at the end of the course) and was primarily a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences.  While initially daunting, I found the myself looking forward to the weekly change over of content.  I enjoyed being able to work through the learning at my own pace and at a time that worked for me.  I found that I also quite enjoyed the online discussion forums, finding it a great way to sort through my thinking…’getting it out of my head’ so to speak.  I was disheartened a little though as most member of the group did not access of use the discussion boards which made it a little difficult to build relationships with them.  Our asynchronous sessions where, however, a great way to forge these connections with others.  Though we had to resort to ‘dialogue’ only due to some group members remote locations around Queensland land, those monthly catch ups really helped to maintain the momentum of the course and our group project.  Though perhaps a little quieter than most of my group I could see the tremendous benefits of these sessions to the success of the collaborative aspects of this program.

Again, time for another confession, on a personal level (and perhaps a personality type level) I found some of the openenedness of the tasks particularly challenging, as to the ‘changing goal posts’.  While I recognised the intent, permitting each person the room to forge their own learning pathway, my need to ‘follow the rules’ and past experiences of being criticised for ‘doing my own thing’ made this particularly challenging for me.

Since completing this course in September of last year I turned to Coursera to continue what appears to be now an endless quest to learn, completing courses in:

  • Blended Learning: Personalised Education
  • Teaching Character and Creating Positive Classrooms
  • Coaching Teachers: Providing changes that stick!
  • Teaching goes massive: new skills required.

I am also presently in the final weeks of completing:

  • Foundations of Virtual Instruction
  • Assessment & Teaching of 21st Century Skills

and from Harvard Edx:

  • Leaders of Learning

Through my Twitter feed I also came across ‘Sophia‘ an online learning platform which I have been using with my students as an experiment in blended learning and have completed their online training and certification in:

  • Flipped Classroom
  • iPad Preparedness
  • Chrome Classroom
  • Virtual Classroom

I have also been considering undertaking ‘Google Certification’ but have put that on hold for the moment to enrol at USQ.

My experiences with NGL, now looking at in on paper for the first time, I guess is quite extensive.  Of course there have been the good and the bad, and have learnt a lot from both.  The greatest of these lesson, however, is that what we have come to know as learning, formal instruction in a brick and mortar setting with the teacher as expert and the student as ’empty vessel’¹, is under greater scrutiny than ever before.   Questions are being ask, deep probing, ethical questions which are challenging the very foundation of traditional schooling models.  While what the answer to those questions may be is still unclear, however, the fact that the momentum and support behind those questions continues to grow will have a dramatic impact on what we have come to know as the teaching and learning processes.  So as educators we need to either keep ourselves informed and up-to-date or run the risk of being left behind – ignorance can no long an excuse!

So in summary, NGL has come to redefine what learning means to me.  It has enabled me to challenge myself and pursue my learning in ways that where all but impossible 5-10 years ago.  I know longer have to be limited by what my ‘school’ wants me to know but I can learn from anyone, anywhere and at anytime.  NGL has empowered me and has reignited my passion and curiosity.  I have come to realise that Australia in many ways seems to be lagging the world in its uptake of NGL.  It has opened my eyes to the possibilities and as one of this week’s readings indicates, once your eyes are opened to NGL you cannot unlearn or ignore the implications personally or professionally.

What I am hoping for from this course is to deepen my understanding of NGL.  I hope to come to understand more of the ‘why it works’ rather than just ‘how it works’.  On enroling I had little expectation about the course content, finding myself draw to the possibilities more than just the course description.  I appreciate that the course is still in its construction stages, and, given my obsessive tendencies, have appreciated the honesty and transparency of this process.  I still have much to learn still about ‘trusting the process’ and focusing less on the outcomes. This is one of life’s many lessons I still am struggling to learn…perhaps in this course I will learn more than I expected!

¹Perhaps this idea of students as ’empty vessels’ explains my initial hesitance with this post!



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