Monday, October 11, 2010

Still Casting About for Lasting Connections

Vahid blogged and several others have commented about desiring to form sub-nets in growing our PLE but finding it difficult. I can identify with that desire, but also appreciate the facilitators' reluctance to "herd" us into groups. From the beginning we've been urged to find people with whom we naturally connect. Dave Cormier mentioned in his blog, " you’ll likely have found some people that are doing what you are doing, who are interested in what you’re interested in, or with whom your ideas seem to connect easily."

I've not been very successful at this apart from some give & take in the discussion forums. Three possible barriers (excuses?).

1. lack of synchronicity.
I'm still figuring out how to have my class of adult literacy learners work on their own so I can concentrate on the live sessions, if I get to log in at all. Reading the back channel while listening to the recorded version isn't' the same as having the opportunity to participate live.. I did manage to join the Second Life group at Chilbo last Wednesday. Very enjoyable; the group warmly welcomed me and it has great promise, but the RL class needed me and I had to leave just as our discussion was getting started.

2. lack of confidence
I'm hesitant to write off-the-cuff responses in the forums, self-conscious of the rustic sound of my written voice (even after careful editing) in comparison to the effortless erudition of the academics. I've previously mentioned the time it takes me to write a post or comment, and most of my reading and writing is relegated the limited evening left after work, exercise, supper, and life – when I choose to have a life instead of PLENKing.

3. lack of colleagues
The majority of active PLENK participants are in HE whereas I am teaching basic literacy to disadvantaged adults. Don't get me wrong, this is a fascinating MOOC. I'm meeting intimidatingly talented people, gaining further insights into my own learning and self-imposed limitations, pushing the boundaries of my skills, and generally having a difficult time disconnecting. I have not yet been able to devote enough time, or exercise sufficient discipline, to narrow my focus on locating individuals with whom I have something in common. Or maybe I'm like the fourteen year-old too shy to ask for a date (OK I was still almost too shy at 21, but she has been worth infinitely many times over, the 15 agonizing minutes this nerd stood at the pay phone, dime in hand, getting up the courage to actually call. Now get back on track now, Jim :) It's possible I won't find cross-cultural adult basic education instructors in PLENK, but I am getting the idea of how to look for them in the wild. Meanwhile, it's a stretching and intriguing experience to "walk the PLENK" as someone put it.

Learning Theory

I was encouraged to see some lively discussions and clarifications about learning theory after an initial display of ambivalence toward the subject. Studying formal learning theories for the first time (when I started teaching adult literacy a few years ago) was like installing shelves in a messy garage. I'd picked up bits and pieces of understanding about human learning behaviours during my years as a missionary, but suddenly I was presented with a system for organizing this knowledge. It opened my eyes to probable reasons why I'd had better success at communicating some things than others.

Labeling something does not mean I have to pigeonhole or limit it. The fantasy/magic story genre frequently uses a plot device where learning the true name for a person or thing gives one power over it. Having a name for a concept allows me (to believe I have) more control over the way I can use it. Knowing that I am a cognitive thinker not only explains why I feverishly desire to understand every why and how; it also helps me recognize that my fascination with explaining everything to death might actually bore the tactile learner to distraction. Understanding learning theories enables me to critically re-examine my assumptions and adjust my practice.

One outstanding link from Week 4:
Trailmeme and Eva Birger's example
– a great improvement over the traditional page of links. A must-try for the next time I need to lead a colleague or student through a series of web artifacts.

Yeah, I know this was last week's discussion topics. I decided to have a life on our Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend, so only completed it tonight.


  1. Jim, on the forming of groups in a MOOC - don't force it. If it happens, it happens. I'm going to steal a line from Keats (and quoting from nearly 30 years back), and mangle it here: "If forming groups doesn't come as naturally as leaves to a tree, then it had better not come at all."


  2. Hi Jim,
    now I have found this blog (I found You already in the Introductions)and I have to say that I love this blog. I recognize similarity with my pondering and I will follow you in the future.
    See/ meet you later...