Squinting into the future?

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!






8 thoughts on “Squinting into the future?

  1. Thank you Lotta for this blog post. You are right, it’s sometimes hard to inspire and motivate when you teach “dry” and “boring” topics. Especially when you have to go through specific facts and details.
    I deal for example with ‘time management’ for the first year students. And many of them find this so very unneccessary. They who do, usually miss out on all deadlines!
    But I have also learnt now that I really have the whole internet to use, to find some useful tips that could “spices up”, and give that little “extra” to my course or lecture. I have earlier shown some videos on this topic, but they have obviously not been inspiring enough. I’m very positive that I will some useful material when I dig deep enough.
    Also, I got very curious on those toxic eggs… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Monica! Hahaha, yes, toxic eggs are interesting…. I actually don’t find my subjects dry or boring at all, but I can’t seem to turn my lectures or courses into something as creative as e.g. Alec. But as you say, there are all kinds of possibilities of “spices” out there… 🙂

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  3. If you build a network of people who teach toxicology then you are able to discuss your teaching and together find ways of enhancing it. Learning the facts, theories and terminology in a subject involves often years of hard work and there are no short-cuts. You need years of often boring and frustrating practice to be able to play beautiful music. So in many subjects we need the “dry” stuff before we can start being creative. But we still need to find ways of blending instruction with practice and collaboration.

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  4. Thanks for your comments, Alastair! Good analogy with musicians. I think I’m aiming at presenting all the necessary facts, theories and terminology in the most engaging way possible, and there are ways to do this more creatively than I do now (I’ve gotten so many good ideas during this course). For the students, though, the first step is, as you say, to master the basic of the subject. For me, it’s the basic (and then some) of the pedagogy. 😉

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  5. Thanks for an interesting reflection, which in many ways relate to my own thinking at this point in the course. Although basically everything can be super interesting (-at least, I think that the major part of us taking this course have curiosity as a common personality trait, which of course includes taking an interest in other disciplines and research topics), I think that the often forced tempo in a course also comes into play here. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with the tools we present to the students, but the lack of time to engage in the learning process. I have become increasingly aware of the necessity to let learning take time. Being an art historian, I have consequently created seminars in which the student spent an hour or more with an artwork on site, i e in a museum, just to make them aware that new things appear after a while. After 1 hour they always see things they didn’t notice in the beginning. They have loved those seminars, and I think that they actually feel a need for just “resting” – to feel that it’s ok to only look/think/whatever, and that you in fact learn a lot by doing just that. The concept “slow education” is just emerging. It would be fantastic to see how that can align with online courses, which many seem to take parallel to work or other full-time studies.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for sharing the title and author of the book. I’m definitely interested in ready that book as well. I’m sure that most of the people that took part in the ONL172 will consider themselves as part of a personal learning network in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

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