Be careful this is a reflective post and I ramble quite a bit.
The month of October is about three quarters finished. It has been filled with highs and lows. With much anticipation I awaited the presentation by Stephen Downes. I have been reading a lot more of his work in the last several months and seen one of his presentations and it has really impressed. Unfortunately he was sick and had to cancel at the last moment and then our schedules did not work out for later in the month. Talk about moving from a high to a low. We muddled our way through in #OOE13 and I think we did well.
Not only am I leading a MOOC, but I’m also a participant in several more. though to call it participation is sometimes stretching the word to its breaking point. Mostly I flit in and out, missing most of the synchronous meetings and wondering what I’m supposed to be doing. I suppose I still sometimes think that learning is like it was in highschool, I just show up to class on a regular (or semi regular) basis and the knowledge falls into my head.
Open Online Experience (#OOE13) and Exploring Personal Learning Networks (#XPLRPLN) are the two MOOCs I been trying to stick with and actively participate. One of course is mine and the other is coming out of my old Alma mater. That isn’t the entire reason of course, they are both also focused on creating and maintaining connections.
Which brings us back to the point of the post, connections, networking, personal learning networks, PLCs, or whatever you call them. (There are differences, but in the end if we focus on the process over the goals we lose the point).
I learn a lot online, I have since practically the first day I started connecting with people. Learning online is like drinking from a firehose, we need some method of organizing our learning before if becomes useful. Harold Jarche’s post on personal knowledge management (PKM) was a nice refresher. Bookmark, aggregate, and connect, the basis of learning online. I would go even further and share a bit of advice heard during one of our #OOE13 sessions, “summarize before keeping.” I guess if something looks interesting but you don’t have time to read it, use Pocket or a similar service. Since then I have been more deliberate about my bookmarks.
I find it amazing that many of the connections I made way back when are not only still around, but are popping up in seemingly unrelated activities.
I am an introvert and I am exceedingly bad at reaching out to people. (I’m a bit better online, but not much) I am even worse at developing and maintaining relationships over time. So in 2013 when I am in a course #xplrpln and they suggest reading a paper by Alec Couros about his course EC&I 831 it is I think to myself, “what kind of audacity did I have way back then to offer to be a mentor to his students during that course.” In 2008 I was new at this online community thing and spent most of my time learning from others so when Alec asked his PLN if anyone would like to volunteer to help in his class I jumped at the chance. For the first time I was able to give something back to my community. It didn’t do much, just read and comment on a few blogs, it really impressed on me the importance of feedback when we are first starting out.
Dr. Couros and I have had a few interactions online since then, but I doubt he would recognize my name if you mentioned me. I wonder sometimes, not just with this one connection but with many, if I had spent more time developing and cultivating these possible mentors early on what a difference that could have made. I also wonder if I had spent more time developing and cultivating my knowledge what might be different.
Not that I would like to moan about my lack of direction and disappointment in work place promotions (though I just did), what I would really like to say is, again referring back to Harold Jarche’s post, “Structure the essential 10% and leave the rest unstructured, but networked, …” In other words, to see growth we do need to find a focus and cultivate that, but also allow the rest to develop organically. Or as has been pointed out in almost every cMOOC I participate in Orient, Declare, Network, Cluster,and Focus.
So consider developing deeper, stronger relationships with my PLN my focus for the next few months.