I was actually blown away by the webinar with Alec Cuoros; so many imaginative ways of connecting people, “getting” people to learn (inspired by Alec, they taught themselves), and how he and many others make use of the internet and all kinds of tools. Alec showed how he, his students, and many others, are building a personal learning network encompassing anything from creation of music to getting help on how to construct a bowdrill for starting a fire…. There is no stopping anyone who wants to learn something, and by showing how educators can lower the threshold for, and greatly inspire, students, Alec is inspiring a lot of educators, including myself!
I do think (but maybe I will have an epiphany during topics 4 and 5) that there is a difference between teaching/inspiring educators to become better educators and teaching much “drier” subjects such as e.g. toxicology and risk assessment (my subjects – and I find them fascinating!). Alec’s students could choose to learn how to paint, for example, while I want to (and have to) teach my students e.g. that everything can be toxic; it’s just a matter of dose. The opposite is also true, by the way; even a super toxic chemical can be safe if you make sure that your exposure to that chemical is low enough. (Keep that in mind when you read headlines such as “Organic eggs contain toxic PCBs”; yes, they do, but the number of eggs you would have to eat for the levels to pose a threat to your health is staggering.) I try to avoid a (potentially boring) transfer of knowledge to my students, but not all teaching situations (shorter courses/seminars) lend themselves to students researching and finding out facts and connecting the dots on _their_ own. At least I know for sure that some of the many tools I’ve discovered thanks to this course will help spice up even the driest of seminars, not to mention ideas around learning.
But let’s leave music, bowdrills and eggs to talk about personal learning networks, which was yet another new term to me, when this topic started. Perhaps many of us already have a personal learning network but don’t call it by that name. I often listen to my colleagues’ presentations and then ask if I can re-use their information/slides. Or I’m inspired by how they connected with their audience, and try to incorporate that into my own work. Alec’s webinar, and this entire course, has made it clear that a personal learning network can consist of so many more people than local colleagues! I hope that all of us that participate in ONL172 will see all other participants, facilitators and presenters as part of our personal learning networks in the future.
Ending this post almost off topic: while following one of the links provided by the ONL course organisers, I happened upon a Wikipedia page about Networked Learning. Some years ago, someone (not an educator) recommended the book “A Pattern Language” by Christopher Alexander. Who knew that this book (popular among e.g. architects) also dealt with learning networks, via planning of urban areas? Now I really want to read it!