The project is now into the practical stage of seeding, animating and growing a group. However, choosing where the ‘virtual’ space/s will be is tied closely to what social networking sites are available and on what basis, incorporating another question of which tools are available, followed by who to invite, how to go about it, and ultimately these choices must consider the purpose… why is the group being set up?

Participatory action research (PAR) by its nature calls for an egalitarian approach to the ways such choices are made. This helps to answer both the ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions: PAR typically involves collaborating to explore solutions to shared problems, challenges or questions. It works by reflecting on actions/initiatives to then revise/refine further actions… in a journey in, around, through, to and hopefully, beyond the shared goal. In our case this is developing our professional capacity to design and offer effective learning support in tertiary education that is relevant for the twenty-first century.

Sarantakos (2005, p.333) describes PAR as “the application of fact finding to practical problem-solving in a social situation with a view to improving the quality of action within it, involving the collaboration and cooperation of researchers, practitioners and laymen”.  Walter (2006) also sees this methodology, associated with the qualitative approach, as providing an opportunity to critique conventional theoretical and methodological social research which aligns with this project’s search for theoretical frameworks emerging as relevant to web 2.0-based learning.

Grainne Conole, Juliet Culver (2010) and colleagues launched a professional social networking site called cloudworks in 2008. It opens and facilitates a space for informal social learning, an opportunity to connect and converse about shared interests on a global basis. It has helped to inspire this project which begins on a micro-level and anticipates movement to participation in macro-level networks such as the cloudworks communities, academia.edu and LinkedIn.

Preliminary discussions among our small academic language and learning support team have led to the establishment of a private group, connecting2supportlearning, using the free, but basic,  Wiggio application (the ‘where’). It can be conceived as a scaffolded experience for the team in that it allays concerns about the public profile a Facebook account represents for people who are as yet  unfamiliar with the privacy options now available. This original small group membership will now extend invitations to join this group to workplace colleagues involved in related learner support such as library services and the VET sector (the ‘who’). There are a number of free social networking sites (SNSs) available but I have loosely evaluated these on behalf of the team and selected wiggio as a starting point. The wiggio space presents a limited array of tools (the ‘which’). However, learning by playing, homo ludens, as advocated by John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas (2011), in a safe ‘space’ such as this group, still offers opportunities to consider essential features of SNSs and the benefits and challenges they present for supporting learning (some of the ‘what’).

A partial snapshot of our group wiggio space.

Apart from playing with the tools available, group members can connect and converse about key questions this research project seeks to answer. These include developing shared understandings and vocabulary around web 2.0 based learning options, including notions of digital literacies, sharing and reflecting on experiences with different social media initiatives and relating to emerging theoretical frameworks to inform our practice. Our own team is exploring Facebook, currently just a profile and a page, with a view to designing a group. A small number of students have been invited to ‘friend’ us and/or ‘like’ us, with intentions of extending this to our full mailing list recipients. We have ‘liked’ some related pages and have posted events (our free workshops) and some status updates. The team is considering how our ‘wall’ might be moderated in terms of current automatic feeds from ‘friends’ or ‘fans’, as well as further content we’d like to contribute (more of the ‘what’).

Recent and upcoming posts will revolve around this research project, Connections, conversations and co-design: exploring the benefits and challenges social software presents to support learning for the twenty-first century.  This blog will function, to some extent, as a research diary over the next few months.

Janice

References

Brown, J. S., & Thomas, D. (2010). Learning in/for a world of constant flux: Homo sapiens, homo faber & homo ludens revisited. In L. Weber & J. Duderstadt (Eds.), University research for innovation (Ch. 22, pp. 321-336). London: Economica Ltd. Retrieved from  www.johnseelybrown.com/ Learning%20for%20a%20World%20of%20Constant%20Change.pdf

Conole, G. and Culver, J. (2010). The design of Cloudworks: Applying social networking practice to foster the exchange of learning and teaching ideas and designs. Computers and Education, 54(3), pp. 679–692. Retrieved August 18, 2011,  from http://oro.open.ac.uk/18384/

Conole, G., McAndrew, P., & Buckingham Shum, S. (2009). A new approach to supporting the design and use of OER: Harnessing the power of web 2.0. Retrieved September 21, 2010, from http://www.e4innovation.com/share/conole_mcandrew_shum_chapter_edner_book_v3.doc

Sarantakos, S. (2005). Social research. (3rd ed.). NY: Palgrave Macmillan

Walter, M. (Ed.)  (2006). Social research methods: An Australian perspective. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.

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I’m gearing up in my quest to become a reliable blogger, particularly now I’m starting a research project to complete my current formal study (M. Education) online through the University of Southern Queensland.

‘Nailing down’ a useful, focused research problem that might bring new insights to the teaching and learning support knowledge-base has been a challenging task. ICTs and associated practices of their users appear notoriously volatile and fluid, reinforcing both emergence and complexity themes for both the theoretical and practical dimensions. Much as a river delta broadens and flows into multiple channels, so too the research, applied projects and literature revolving around new media, web 2.0 and informal learning present a vast array of options.

The risk of a split focus for this project has become clear and I’m still considering how the two dimensions can be successfully connected to enhance each other. One aims to explore informal professional learning around sharing individual initiatives via social software mediated online community ‘space’ or ‘spaces’; ultimately to have a coherent, interconnected approach to learner support. The other aims to enhance the particular role of academic language and learning support offered by exploring the potential of informal learning in a social network shared with students, as well as expanding communication channels about events for example. Perhaps the latter is a particular within the whole of the former. Microcosmic and macrocosmic perspectives?

I’ll be using this blog to relate to that research and hope to make it interesting and/or useful for others. It’s been fascinating to reflect on the ‘path’ of interest I’ve followed, as revealed in the foci of my many papers/artefacts submitted in this M.Education course. The keywords evoked include informal learning, social media, emerging technologies, nomadic learners, mobile learning, professional learning, virtual worlds (Second Life); sustainability; communities of practice/interest/inquiry; learning ecologies; connectivism; complexity and chaos theory; academic learning support; web 2.0; personalised learning networks…  looking a bit wild and random in places but it’s been fun and in many ways, serendipitous.

I also connect to metaphors for learning (which could be one of the reasons I’m such a fan of John Seely-Brown and friends).  Others come to mind… Dave Cormier’s ‘rhizomatic education’ (2008); David Weinberger with his ‘small pieces loosely joined’, George Siemens considers metaphors of educators (2008) and reconsiders metaphors of change (2009)  in his brilliant connectivism blog. Ah… but I digress!

The original focus began with my interest in researching learning on the move, particularly for those who live aboard and cruise on boats. My own ‘problems’ in engaging in formal learning whilst doing that triggered this interest, but also the awesome volume and range of informal learning involved in the cruising lifestyle. Pat Danaher, (one of my lecturers at USQ), has written extensively on ‘traveller education’ and related issues. I also found some research on cruisers, with sociology and psychology foci, from Jennings more recently, and Macbeth preceding that. Neither of them investigated learning which suggests I could still check out this ‘gap’ in the research in the future.

I see Curt Bonk has explored this area of interest – read one of his articles  The wide open learning world: sea, land, and ice views in the Association for Learning Technology newsletter and/or visit his TravelinEdMan blog. He has a new book out titled The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education. Informal learning is, as I mentioned, especially relevant for those learning on the move. Bonk has included the experiences of some young sailors.

I’m enjoying the apparent renaissance of interest in informal learning. Jay Cross is a name I associate with informal learning – get a taste of his 2007 book Informal learning: Rediscovering the natural pathways that inspire innovation and performance at http://internettime.pbworks.com/The-Book.   Brown and Thomas (2010) have been playing with conceptions of  neo-human-learners as homo sapiens (knowers), homo faber (makers) and homo ludens (players) – see Chapter 22 in University research for innovation (Glion Colloquium). delgiorgio shares a review of their book A new culture of learning, cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (2011).  Jane Bozarth (2010) also considers informal learning as it happens between formal learning events, among other things, in Social media for trainers.

A persistent thread in the weaving of my learning has been focused on harnessing social media for learning in communities: the expansion and evolution of this area of interest in education and training is testament I believe to its value. I’ll explore this thread and those others I presented as keywords above in further posts.

Meanwhile, dare I say any leads to emerging theories and/or initiatives relevant to social media and informal/formal learning would be appreciated. The literature review is a work in progress for this project, but at some point I’ll just have to cut off the reading and save it for future pleasure and enlightenment. Your comments are similarly most welcome.

Janice

I find myself wondering if and when I’d have learned about this community resource if I hadn’t enrolled in the Emerging Environments for Learning unit led by Peter Evans (as part of my M.Ed study through the University of Southern Queensland). It is possible I might have come across links to it on some of the sites/blogs I visit but there’s no guarantee: let’s call it serendipity! John Seely Brown acknowledges the power of serendipity for learning 🙂 but that’s another post perhaps.

A new node in my network (see George Siemen’s blog connectivism), a  fellow learner, Deepak Prasad, posted on what I’ve discovered is an awesome resource: WikiEducator where we are invited to join this community in “turning the digital divide into digital dividends using free content and open networks“.

I’ve copied an extract from the home page that explains its purpose:

The purpose of WikiEducator

The WikiEducator is an evolving community intended for the collaborative:

  • planning of education projects linked with the development of free content;
  • development of free content on Wikieducator for e-learning;
  • work on building open education resources (OERs) on how to create OERs.
  • networking on funding proposals developed as free content.

I can see I’ll be visiting it often and hope to be able to contribute in some way as well as benefit from the extensive opportunities it presents: a vision well worth working for.  The Content page currently covers Education Background (the full continuum of formal education from early childhood to tertiary, and teacher education); Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC); technical and vocational education; professional development (elearning and ICTs, free and open education resources, workshop toolkits and health); active development hubs; funding sources & other.

It’s supported by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) which is “an intergovernmental organisation created by Commonwealth Heads of Government to encourage the development and sharing of open learning and distance education knowledge, resources and technologies”.

One resource example is the Designing for Flexible Learning course offered by staff in the Educational Development Centre of Otago Polytechnic and is designed to help both formal and informal learners access and interpret models, research and professional dialogue in flexible learning. I followed links to a great section on reflecting on learning (the context being with blog tools).

Leigh Blackall and Bronwyn Hegarty look to have constructed some amazing learning experiences and spaces here. My apologies to any others contributing to these I haven’t recognised in this post.

I’ll be sharing this resource with my fellow learning designers, something we do is share links to interesting resources in our community of practice. I suspect I could spend every waking moment exploring leads less awesome than this one, and the informal professional development time ‘allocated’ in our working week certainly couldn’t afford to support such a learning path. However, when it might contribute to the ‘greater good of humanity’ I believe being paid doesn’t matter so much.

USQ has been exploring a web 2.0 approach, particularly in the unit with Peter, using tiki wikis and mahara for an eportfolio. It was certainly an interesting learning experience, adventuring through interesting learning spaces. The knowledgeGarden wiki pages we produced during the unit have been relocated and are open to public access.  I have some pages there you may like to visit and there are many more well worth visiting:

Thanks for any interest,

Janice


I’m one of many who’ve signed up for the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (CCK08) massive open online course (MOOC) facilitated by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. It’s a brilliant opportunity to learn in a more structured way about an area of interest I’ve had ignited since encountering George’s Knowing Knowledge book (and SCOPE Seminar around it) in January 2007. It’s also an opportunity to widen and strengthen my networks – there are some familiar names in the participants list.

My first digital fingerprints have been adding my pin and some details about myself to the Google Map created for the CCK08 learning community by Rod Lucier. This led to me adding a Google profile (using some google apps but I hadn’t done this yet). I viewed the introductory presentation (made with Articulate) and visited the moodle site but don’t seem to be able to log-in to post an introduction in the forum. Did I mention managing multiple accounts being a risky business? I’ll sort it out tomorrow!

Here’s the course description: “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge is a twelve week course that will explore the concepts of connectivism and connective knowledge and explore their application as a framework for theories of teaching and learning. It will outline a connectivist understanding of educational systems of the future”.

There have been a few emails from George leading up to the start of the course (which is this week) to keep in touch and provide links to some pre-activity tasks and readings. There’s been an option to pay to do the course through the University of Manitoba but it has also been open to others on a non-accredited basis. It is part of a Certificate in Emerging Technologies for Learning. This will tie in well with my current course with University of Southern Queensland, FET8611 Emerging Environments for Learning. I’m exploring using Mahara for reflective blogging and as an eportfolio tool as part of that course, along with the tikiwiki knowledgeGarden (mentioned in previous posts).

I’ll be using this blog for the course so I hope to share some of my learnings and excitement here.  I can see we’ll be using some familiar tools, some I’m aware of but haven’t really investigated yet (eg Pageflakes) and some new ones. It will also help me get into the habit of posting more reliably and frequently!

Lovin’ learning,

Janice

I’ve mentioned the ‘small pieces [of web 2.0 tools] loosely joined’ idea as an alternative to a monolithic LMS before. I don’t have the direct blog posting but I found it via Jay Cross (his Informal Learning Blogis a goldmine for web 2.0 conversations). Emerging technologies from the ‘read-write’ ‘2.0’ web we are likely to be working with these days in the education field offer mind-boggling advantages, but there’s a price to be paid methinks. Most applications are sort of free (Facebook, blogger, Second Life, frapps, wikispaces, etc etc). However, this last week or so I’ve been extremely conscious of the ‘juggling’ mode (I suspect I’m not alone in operating in) at work, in my learning and personally. The work-life-study balance is a juggling act for many. Any of these can be chunked down into further juggling acts.

Let’s take the ‘small pieces’ aspect of the Emerging Environments for Learning course through USQ. We are exploring some pieces such as tikiwiki, mahara and moodle (core tools, our separate interest areas for our facilitated pages and projects open up myriad further tools). There’s no single sign on for these components, although I think it’s time to investigate the OpenID option as it may allow me to bring these together in some way. I’ve used ‘janicebreenwhite’ for my knowledgeGarden activities, not realising it becomes an oddity when logging in to it as one component in the course.

Thank goodness I kept the same password! I’ve had to create and maintain a special file listing all the tools I’ve created accounts with: the usernames, passwords (enough hints for me to know which they are) and any specific email account they are associated with. All the small pieces, (bloglines, del.icio.us, wikispaces, Flickr, Scribd, slideshare, blogger, wordpress, facebook, bebo, this course, ezine subscriptions, email accounts, online repositories… and that’s without our online banking and workplace setups), are in danger of becoming a ‘dog’s breakfast‘ (translation of this colloquial term… imagine the scene) and management is definitely a significant factor in juggling participation in contemporary digital environments.

And I straddle the digital native-digital immigrant divide! I’m a defacto native. Some of our students face the challenges of comprehending and navigating between multiple windows running simultaneously, let alone what we are doing.

I find myself wondering if and when I’d have learned about this community resource if I hadn’t enrolled in the Emerging Environments for Learning unit led by Peter Evans (as part of my M.Ed study through the University of Southern Queensland) this semester. It is possible I might have come across links to it on some of the sites/blogs I visit but there’s no guarantee: let’s call it serendipity! John Seely Brown acknowledges the power of serendipity for learning 🙂 but that’s another post perhaps.

A new node in my network (see connectivism), a fellow learner in the unit I’m doing this semester, Deepak Prasad, posted what I’ve discovered is an awesome resource: WikiEducator where we are invited to join this community in “turning the digital divide into digital dividends using free content and open networks“.

I’ve copied an extract from the home page that explains its purpose:

The purpose of WikiEducator

The WikiEducator is an evolving community intended for the collaborative:

  • planning of education projects linked with the development of free content;
  • development of free content on Wikieducator for e-learning;
  • work on building open education resources (OERs) on how to create OERs.
  • networking on funding proposals developed as free content.

I can see I’ll be visiting it often and hope to be able to contribute in some way as well as benefit from the extensive opportunities it presents: a vision well worth working for. The Content page currently covers Education Background (the full continuum of formal education from early childhood to tertiary, and teacher education); Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC); technical and vocational education; professional development (elearning and ICTs, free and open education resources, workshop toolkits and health); active development hubs; funding sources & other.

It’s supported by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) which is “an intergovernmental organisation created by Commonwealth Heads of Government to encourage the development and sharing of open learning and distance education knowledge, resources and technologies”.

One resource example is the Designing for Flexible Learning course offered by staff in the Educational Development Centre of Otago Polytechnic and is designed to help both formal and informal learners access and interpret models, research and professional dialogue in flexible learning. I followed links to a great section on reflecting on learning (the context being with blog tools).

Leigh Blackall and Bronwyn Hegarty look to have constructed some amazing learning experiences and spaces here. My apologies to any others contributing to these I haven’t recognised in this post.

I’ll be sharing this resource with my fellow learning designers, something we do is share links to interesting resources in our community of practice. I suspect I could spend every waking moment exploring leads less awesome than this one, and the informal professional development time ‘allocated’ in our working week certainly couldn’t afford to support such a learning path. However, when it might contribute to the ‘greater good of humanity’ I believe being paid doesn’t matter so much.

USQ is exploring a web 2.0 approach this semester, even more-so in this unit with Peter, using tiki wikis and mahara for an eportfolio. It is certainly looking like an interesting learning experience, adventuring through interesting learning spaces.

Thanks for any interest,

Janice

The content of this post has been moved to the Reflective Journal Page. It includes a list of references used throughout the unit. Note: blogs I’ve linked to have been retained here, but also appear on the blogroll.


Related blogs

Note: Fellow learners have been blogging their own journeys through this learnscape (a term used by Jay Cross – see his Informal Learning blog in my blogroll). You can visit their blogs:

  • Javed’s Blog – maintained by Javed Yusuf, based in Suva, Fiji, and working with moodle for the University of the South Pacific
  • Mr B’s Masterful Space – maintained by Bruce Knox – the IT Coordinator at an international school in S.E.Asia
  • SKI Blog – maintained by Irene Ostrenski who is based in Brisbane, Australia
  • Jane’s Reflections about FET 5601 – maintained by Jane Ross who has been teaching in Indonesia for many years.

Cheers, Janice