My 5 ‘non-negotiables’ of mental health

A fortnight ago, my sister hurt herself. Purposefully. As a result, I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness, especially in relation to work/life balance. My sister and I are self-confessed workaholics. We got our first jobs fresh out of primary school (mine was as a wedding table decorator – how cool’s that?) and we both managed fast-food teams during our teenage years. Even though we’re both in our early twenties, we’ve been working for a decade, in many jobs, most often two jobs at once, whilst studying. Nowadays, for the first time in my life, the brakes have been slammed on my work and educational life…and maybe that’s a good thing. And maybe it’s not. Even when I was studying fulltime and working fulltime, I felt content with my work/life balance. This is because I have established some non-negotiables, which have warded off stress, increased my happiness and boosted my motivation. Here they are:

Exercise

I love exercising. I realise I might be one of the few people who says this…but it’s true. Walking is my ritual and exercise is my religion. I do it every day, seven days a week (unless I’m sick). I don’t always exercise ridiculously hard. Most times, I just plug in some music and get moving. Daily physical activity is so important. Not only does it reduce the odds of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes but it also prevents depression and improves your memory and thinking skills. Whenever I have a problem or am searching for an answer, it usually comes to me whilst I’m exercising, without intentionally seeking it.

Writing

I’m not much of a talker. I often find that my thoughts translate better through the written word, which in return supports my growth and mental health. In fact, the practice of writing is so powerful that it has been proven to improve the psychological and physical health of cancer patients. I am such an avid writer than I have dedicated one whole draw of my wardrobe to journals instead of clothes! I write everything from fiction, poetry, blogs to articles of scholarship. There is much written about the power of journaling. However, I’ve never had the patience and dedication to keep a daily journal. However, I am lucky enough to take advantage of transactional writing by writing letters to a pen pal. Megan, my pen pal, lives in Melbourne. Although, we’ve never met each other, we have been writing to one another since we were ten years old. It’s such a liberating experience to write and share your life with someone else, without fear of judgment. Whatever genre you prefer, writing has undeniable benefits on your mental health, including:

  • It helps manage stress (by pinpointing what’s going on internally, or by allowing you to vent to a blank page)
  • It enhances emotional intelligence (by allowing you to make sense of your emotions)
  • It improves communication skills (including verbal communication)
  • It helps set and achieve goals (by organising your thoughts into words and prioritising them e.g. the lifesaving to-do lists)
  • It assists in problem-solving (just like exercise, new ideas tend to pop up without seeking them)
  • It creates empathy (because writing allows you to see from other people’s points of view)
  • It enhances creativity (we learn to be creative in dealing with pain, difficult relationships and challenging emotions)

writing

Photo: There’s nothing like green tea and a blank page (photo my own)

Change the scenery, travel

Work, at times, can make you feel like you are stuck in a rut. Taking a vacation or just changing scenery, even if it’s just down the road can work wonders. Just one trip away could help change your outlook on life for the better and recharge your mental state. I’m not merely talking about grand internationally voyages (though I have no complaints if someone offered me a free trip). I’m talking about little things like exploring your local national park or visiting an art gallery. Most weekends, I try and do something. Last weekend I was at the Gold Coast, whilst this weekend my girlfriends and I spent a day at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in the bucketing rain. Travel can be a kind of monasticism on the move. On the road, we live more simply, with no more than the possessions we can carry, and surrendering ourselves to chance. I think what gives value to travel is fear – disruption or emancipation from circumstances and all the habits behind which we hide in our daily lives. Here is some of my changing scenery across the last few months:

Brissy

Photo: Brisbane at dusk, after a day of shopping and enjoying GOMA & the Queensland State Library (photo my own)

desert

Photo: Roadtrippin somewhere between Alice Springs and King’s Canyon (photo my own)

Hang with your friends and family

Put your friends and family first. They are the ones who will be there for you when you need it the most. Your friends and family love you for you; not by your job title, or your reputation, or your adversities or triumphs. These trivial factors will soon bleed together. Your friends and family are going to be the ones sitting beside your hospital bed, time after time, not your clients nor your managers. The times I’ve walked straight out of hospital to hand in a resignation letter have been countless. I’ve never regretted these decisions. Each time, I awake from some sort of surgery, my perspective is cleared and I am reminded that no job or opportunity is ever going to replace my friends and family, nor my health. I was reinforced of this again a fortnight night ago when my sister’s bestie drove from the Gold Coast to Toowoomba to see my sister after her incident. My sister walked out of the hospital room into her bestie’s arms, crying.

This is what is important.

Notice and appreciate the little things

Appreciating the little things in life means focusing on what is positive and nurturing in our lives. It means practicing gratitude for those everyday things that are easy to take for granted or missed altogether. Adopting this outlook won’t stop negative events from occurring, but it may help prevent exaggerating their importance in our lives. Little gestures and tiny happenings will make your heart swell, lift your mood and make you a better person if you give them a chance. Some of my small pleasures include watching milk disperse in coffee or raindrops trickle down a window pane. Others include receiving a nice email from someone or a really good hug.

Recently, I came across a dandelion that was shining in the morning sunlight. I stopped to appreciate it for a while. The person I was walking with told me it was “just a weed.” I guess when some see a weed, others see a wish. Maybe, I was mesmerised because my eyes and brain are not accustomed to all the little wonders of the world, the things people have seen every day, for their whole lives.

Either way – I hope I never stop feeling this way.

I hope I will always stop and appreciate the little things.

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Romania – the little Paris of the East

I always imagined that for my first time “flying solo,” I would either be gazing wondrously at the colosseum with a triple-flavoured gelato in one hand and an Italian dictionary in the other; or I would be spending all my moolah in Paris, pretending for one blissful moment that my Aussie boganess had miraculously evaporated and I was now a sophisticated Parisienne with new-found wit and a Louis Vuitton handbag. I did none of these things (well, I did see the colosseum eventually) – however, for my first solo trip, I picked up a travel book and told myself I would open a random page and visit the country I landed on – which happened to be Romania, the little Paris of the East.

With a bold capital city and a plethora of quaint medieval towns, Romania is a country of startling contrasts. Its memorising history and culture gives travellers an unexpected mixture of natural and cultural gems, balancing between the worlds of industrialisation and that of a fairy-tale. The deeper you go into the majestic mountains and Transylvania forests, I realised that the country who birthed the vampire mythology, was a far-cry from the dark connotations that the world thought it to be.

Romania is a uniquely beautiful country and it’s a pity that it tends to fall off the travellers’ radar.

Here are some of my highlights:

Climbing almost 2000 stairs to reach Poenari Castle

Even though the castle isn’t really a castle anymore (just ruins) the view from the top of the mountain was breathtaking. The castle ruins once belonged to Vlad, the Impaler, the man who inspired Dracula, not to mention the foundation of the vampire mythology and the thousands of paranormal stories that captivate our world today. Upon reaching the mountain’s peak, you can see everything – the vastness of beautiful Transylvania forests, the winding river where Vlad’s wife jumped to her death to avoid being captured by the Ottomans, roads weaving through bucolic lands, and a giant Romanian flag soaring over the neighbouring mountains. The pictures I took at Poenari Castle do not do the view justice. It’s one of those places you have to see for yourself to realise how beautiful it actually is.760 flag

Partying in a Transylvanian Castle

Every Halloween, the best Halloween party takes place in a Romanian castle. The castle is gothic and gorgeous, decorated with dim-lit candles, artificial fog, blood-red roses and ancient scrolls. The party is hosted by a Dracula impersonator and the costumes are out-of-this-world. The night is full of wonderful entertainment, both traditional and modern and there is complimentary alcohol and a buffet of Romanian cuisine. Not only was the party the best Halloween Party I’ve ever been to, but it’s also the best party I’ve ever been to. Period. Some of the party was video-recorded, check it out below:

Sighisoara (aka the cutest town ever)

Sighisoara, the actual birthplace of Vlad the Impaler is deemed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and rightfully so. Its cobbled streets, secluded squares and pastel coloured houses creates a magical atmosphere. The 14th century clock tower, is a truly symbol of this 700 year old town.

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Sibiu

Sibiu was named the European Capital of Culture and was ranked 8th as Europe’s most idyllic place to live. When I was in Sibiu, I had this euphoric moment of liberty, wondering the streets at night by myself in these large open courtyards with streetlamps that sent a warm orange glow to the sky. The architecture is incredibly cool. Most of the buildings have windows that resemble eyes. A walk along the cobbled streets of the Upper Town might give you the feel that you are being watched. Sibiu is one of those rare beautiful cities where you experience true travel without being too touristy.

736 eyes

Peleș Castle

Peleș Castle, bordered by the Carpathian Mountains, is often referred to as the most beautiful castle in Europe. It was built by King Carol I of Romania between 1839 and 1914, and it was meant to serve as the monarch’s summer retreat. The cost for this incredible undertaking was quite enormous, since the construction project required approximately $120 million in today’s currency. Nowadays,  Peles Castle is an important museum that houses a vast collection of arms, armor and art pieces. Some of the most notable rooms in the castle are called the Honor Hall, the Imperial Suite, the Arsenal, the Playhouse and the Florentine Room, each housing its own unique treasures. Please note that Peles Castle can only be explored via a tour guide.

Castelul_Peles,_Sinaia_-_Vedere_panoramica

Transfăgărășan

If you happen to rent a car and drive around Romania, one of the most impressive roads to discover is Transfăgărășan, also known as Ceaușescu’s Folly. This section of road travels through the Carpathian mountains with dramatic scenery and an even more dramatic road route. The road stretches for 60 miles from north to south, and it runs through some of the highest peaks in the country.

Transfăgărășan_Highway_(From_the_top)_(8127894543)

Brasov

Brasov is the most visited city in Romania, after Bucharest. And for good reason. It’s really, really pretty! It has a privileged location, fringed by the peaks of the Carpathian Mountains, with lots of hiking trails through the lush green forests surrounding it. The old Town Hall Square is a the heart of the city, but it is far from being a bustling place. Life has a slow pace here. People are relaxed and the terraces serve great food and drinks. Not to be missed is the Black Church, the largest Gothic church in Romania. It burned in the Great Fire at the end of the 17th century. The smoke blacked the walls, giving the church its current name.

Another quirky attraction is the Rope Street (Strada Sforii). Some say it is the narrowest street in Europe. True or not, you can comfortably touch both its sides if you stretch your arms. Not for the claustrophobes, but definitely fun to walk up and down a couple of times for everybody else.

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Bran Castle

Also known as Dracula’s Castle, Bran Castle can be found in Bran, in close proximity to the city of Brasov. This majestic structure is commonly regarded as the home of the famous Dracula character brought to life by Bram Stoker, but its history is much more comprehensive than that. Actually, the first written mentioning of Bran Castle dates all the way back to 1377, when Louis I of Hungary allowed the Saxons of Brasov to build their own stone keep. In 1920, the Bran Castle was an official royal residence and ended up being the favorite retreat of Queen Marie.

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Bucharest & the Palace of Parliament

Romania’s capital Bucharest is not particularly the safest city on Earth, but hey, this big, bursting town is full of interesting quirks. It has the good, the bad, and the ugly of any former European communist capital, but beyond the communism side there is a spectacular yearning for freedom and novelty. This is seen through the architecture of the city, which is a striking mix of eras and styles, with grand boulevards, medieval cobbled streets and more modern pieces, which bring life and colour to the dull grey blocks that Bucharest is known for. One of the most magnificent pieces of architecture within Bucharest is the Palace of Parliament, also known as the Parliament of People. The Palace of Parliament is a construction that cost over $4.1 billion and currently holds the record for most expensive administrative building.

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Happy Halloween folks!

 

All images my own, except:

Peles Castle by TiberiuSahlean used under CC-BY-SA https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

Brans Castle by Clay Gilliland used under CC-BY-SA https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

Transfăgărășan by Anthony Stanley used under CC-BY_SA https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

DBR proposal, feedback please

DBR proposal, feedback please

Hi all,

So I’ve been slowly piecing together my DBR proposal on a digital literacy intervention. This is what I’ve got so far. Could you please let me know if it seems logical? Feasible? Have I missed any considerations? Thanks! Nikki

Statement of problem

I decided to use the following questions on the main NGL blog to flesh out my ideas.

  • What is the problem/challenge/focus?

Many students and teaching staff do not have basic digital literacy skills, ultimately contributing to digital exclusion. More particularly, the low levels of digital literacy of students stems from a teacher’s competence in the area.

  • Why is it a problem?

Because digital exclusion results in unequal opportunities, social segregation and the deepening of the digital divide (Wilson and Grant, 2017).

  • Who says it is a problem?

This problem has been identified as a solvable challenge by the NMC Horizon Report, meaning that there are potential resolutions (Adam et al. 2017). I also have some statistics that confirm it is a problem

  • What has been done so far to deal with this?

People have established digital literacy frameworks, professional development opportunities, library tutorials, and student and staff partnerships

  • Who tried and what were their results?

Sharp & Beetham (2010) originally proposed the Seven Elements Model of Digital Literacies framework, which encompasses media literacy; communications and collaboration; career and identity management; ICT literacy; learning skills; digital scholarship; and information literacy. This model evolved into JISC’s (2014) Digital Capability Framework, comprising of ICT proficiency; information data and media literacies; digital creation, problem solving and innovation; digital communication, collaboration and participation; digital learning and development; and digital identity and wellbeing.

Research questions

  • How can NGL support digital literacy improvement?
  • How can librarians support academic staff in building their digital literacy skills?

Literature Review

I’ve decided to split my literature review into two main categories. Firstly, I’m going to talk about the challenges of digital literacy adoption in higher education. This will explore the problem in more detail. Then I’m going discuss the potential solutions to digital literacy adoption in higher education. My three potential solutions include:

  • Inclusivity (embedding digital literacy within the curriculum)
  • Personalisation (benefits of personalised learning, connectivism and the toolbelt theory)
  • Collaboration (where I discuss PLNs and PKM)

Intervention

My two suggestions for an intervention are stronger partnerships between librarians and faculty, and the creation of a digital hub that connects academics to resources, professional developments opportunities and personalised support.

References

Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., Freeman, A., Hall, Giesinger, C., & Ananthanarayanan, V. (2017). NMC Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

JISC. (2014). Developing digital literacies. Retrieved 15 October, 2017, from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/developing-digital-literacies

Sharpe, R., & Beetham, H. (2010). Understanding students’ uses of technology for learning: towards creative appropriation. In R. Sharpe, H. Beetham & S. De Freitas (Eds.), Rethinking learning for a digital age: How learners are shaping their own experiences (pp. 85-99). London and New York: Routledge.

Wilson, G & Grant, A. (2017). A Digital World for All? Retrieved 10 October, 2017, from https://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/carnegieuktrust/wp-content/uploads/sites/64/2017/10/NotWithoutMe.pdf

Visually-impaired student experience

Visually-impaired student experience

Recently I delivered a speech titled “Empathy the answer to visually-impaired students’ educational experience,” (where I talked about the role of the toolbelt theory). You can watch my speech below:

I have received a number of questions from the speech and decided I would post them on this blog for people to read (please see below). If anyone else has any questions please feel free to get in contact with me – always happy to answer.

Many thanks,

Nikki

Question: What was the most challenging aspect of being a visually-impaired student?

Answer: To be honest, chronic fatigue was the most challenging part. I was generally surprised by how easily my energy could just disappear after completing the littlest of tasks.

 

Question: Since regaining your sight, is there anything else you struggle with besides stairs?

Answer: Sure, there are quite a number of things I still struggle with. Besides stairs, I find extreme bright light hard to look at. For example I don’t drive at night because I struggle with headlights. I also have problems watching gun-firing scenes in movies due to the flashing bright lights.

Also, since I lost the sight in my left eye many years before my right, my right eye is more dominant. I struggle getting both eyes seeing together in harmony. I often have moments when my sight switches from eye to eye without working together. However, I’m getting better at this as time goes on.

 

Question: Do you think technology is aiding or marganlising the visually-impaired?

Answer: I think technology has done amazing things for the visually-impaired from the advent of braille watches, voice recognition software to 3D ultrasounds for blind parents. In regards to education, I think 3D printing technology will have a wonderful influence on a visually-impaired student’s educational experience, especially for those who cannot see images and graphics. Instead of seeing and hearing, visually-impaired students can use their sense of touch to recognise 3D tactile aids, which might improve their learning process, whilst reducing a teacher’s workload of feeling compelled to describe complex diagrams and content verbally.

I think technology has done  transformational things for the blind and visually-impaired. However, the shortcoming is that assistive technology does the best it can to keep up with educational technology but in many cases, universities continuously explore the latest cutting-edge tools, which cannot be fully supported in an ever-changing learning environment.

 

Question: Did you have super amazing hearing, since your visual sense wasn’t very good?

Answer: Unfortunately not. There are all sorts of studies about blind people and super hearing abilities but I don’t know how valid they are. For me personally, I have a connective tissue disorder that affects my hearing too – so unfortunately I missed out on the magical hearing abilities!

However, what I do believe is that blind and visually-impaired people pay more attention to their other senses because we have to out of necessity, and we consciously and subconsciously are active listeners.

I find that I can tell so much about a person from the way they talk to me and engage with me. Their tone of voice and turn of phrase can often give me a sense of whether they’re distracted, nervous, preoccupied or genuinely tuned in. The way someone touches or hugs me can feel distinctly warm, connected, patronizing or hollow. How someone walks with me gives me clues about whether or not they’re awkward, anxious or completely at ease.

I think visually-impaired people have great intuition when it comes to people because they are so focused and in-tune with all the senses together.

 

Question: How did you navigate your way through life/situations/places?

Answer: Most of my navigation is based upon mental mapping. I am fortunate enough to have the ability to memorise things very quickly. The iPhone also happens to be an amazing tool. I make sure I have a torchlight and a magnifier glass on my phone for assistance.

 

Question: Since you were visually-impaired for a number of years, did you ever feel like you were missing out on life?

Answer: No. I feel like I experienced life a little differently, no more or less than anyone else does.

How NGL can inform my role as a teacher

How NGL can inform my role as a teacher

My role as “a teacher,” is a librarian at a higher education institute, where I assist academic staff with copyright, educational design and digital literacy. NGL can inform my role as a teacher by creating an equalised relationship between technology and pedagogy, and by ensuring a student centred learning design through the employment of NGL principles.

Technology & Pedagogy

Selwyn (2014) states that even if teachers use technology in their classrooms, it does not mean they are “harnessing the power of technology.” NGL has shown me that despite the advancement of technology, digital technologies cannot stand alone in supporting student success. This is supported by Toyama (2011) who believes that attempts to use technology as a replacement for instruction are bound to fail. Additionally, Eamon (1999) states that transformative teaching involves more than the conveyance of information. It involves socialisation, interaction and group activities, which…cannot be replaced with technology (Eamon, 1999). As a teacher, I find there is a pedagogy vs. technology debate within higher education. This is because when technologies are introduced, teachers often focus on the technical features without drawing links to the context of the actual teaching practice (Kligyte, 2009). I explored this issue in my post “Pedagogy vs. Technology: It’s time to stop the debate.” Through NGL, it has become clear that the “digital” needs to be de-emphasised in higher education discourse (Jones and Bennett, 2014). This will result in the reimagining of educational technologies and allow for the reassertion of pedagogy-led design, where digital technologies are seen as equivalent, not superior, to effective non-digital alternatives (Jones & Bennett, 2014). NGL supports this equality by permitting teachers to take the role of the facilitator in which students can construct their own knowledge, ideally connected to real-world scenarios in which technology plays a fundamental part of 21st century life. The Toolbelt Theory supports this sentiment by encouraging students to select the technology that fits their TEST (Task, Environment, Skills and Tools) framework (Socol, 2008). As a teacher, NGL has informed me that students should be in control of their “toolbelt” in order to cater for personal differences.

In addition, the SAMR and RAT models show that despite technological evolutions, the importance of pedagogy still thrives in a teacher’s emphasis on teaching skills, rather than the conveyance of content (Downes, 2011; Siemens, 2006). In my teaching context, this includes teaching digital literacy. This is important because digital literacy must accompany technology to ensure students will be able to understand the information and tools provided (Campbell, 2004). However, as discussed in my post ‘It’s crucial to be critical’ there are limitations to NGL technologies. In fact, equitability and accessibility to technology is problematic for incarcerated students, indigenous communities, and students who live in rural or low socioeconomic areas. Technology may emphasise wealthy disparity, and the digital divide does hinder NGL’s inclusiveness. Despite connectivity limitations, NGL has the capacity to bridge the digital divide through the development of technologies that do not require internet. However, getting students to engage with technologies and a course requires more than just access – it requires the employment of appropriate pedagogies, the fostering of social capital and a unification with educational technologies (Farley et al. 2015). As a result, NGL has informed my role as a teacher by encouraging me to grasp pedagogy in one hand, technology in the other, and to bring them together in order to create transformative learning experiences for my students.

Student-centred learning design

Additionally, NGL has informed my role as a teacher by changing my perception of a teacher to  “facilitators,” and “designers of learning experience,” where NGL principles are used to enhance student experience (Lavoie et al. 2011). Traditionally, teachers were seen as subject experts. However, through connectivism and social constructivism the role of a teacher has transformed into that of a facilitator, where students are able to construct their own knowledge (Le Cornu & Peters, 2005). Teachers need to cater for a diversity of students, all of whom have differing needs and skills. Therefore, universal design and the Toolbelt Theory need to be considered in order to ensure the unique needs of each student is met. This is supported by Laurillard (2012) who advocates the concept of “design science,” which focuses on educational theories to attain student learning. As a teacher, I would like to foster student individuality by allowing my students to be in control of their learning journey. This includes the exploration of technologies that suit their context, as well as a promotion on peer-learning and industry collaboration. Up until now, I feel my teaching experience has been governed by the organsiational structures that I work within. Learning Management Systems, synchronous Zoom sessions with chosen times and compulsory readings are familiar features within higher education. However, NGL has informed my role as a teacher by encouraging me to think outside the box, especially in relation to learning design and student experience.

As a copyright librarian I am currently thinking of events for Open Access Week, which runs in October. My current ideas include the creation of a blog where students can discuss their experience and challenges with openness, and the idea of what “open” means to them. In addition, I am thinking of running a “replace your copyrighted material with open access ones,” workshop where my students will be able to bring along an existing activity (i.e. textbook, course) and I will facilitate the development of open approaches. The importance of this workshop resides in the fact my students get to pick an activity that is of value of them, and they get to choose the tools they wish to use to accomplish the task. I believe these ideas have stemmed from NGL, which shows it has definitely informed my role as a teacher.

References

Campbell, S. (2004). Defining Information in the 21st Century. Paper presented at World Library and Information Congress: 70th IFLA General Conference and Council, Bueno Aires, Argentina. Retrieved from https://era.library.ualberta.ca/files/nv935310f/IFLA_2004_InfoLit.pdf

Downes, S. (2011). ‘Connectivism’ and Connective Knowledge. Retrieved 8 September, 2017, from, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/connectivism-and-connecti_b_804653.html

Eamon, D. (1999). Distance Education: Has technology become a threat to the academy? Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 31(2), 197-207. doi: 10.3758/BF03207711

Farley, H., Dove, S., Seymour, S., Macdonald, J., Abraham, C., Lee, C., Hopkins, S., Cox, J., & Patching, L. (2015). Making the Connection: Allowing access to digital higher education in a correctional environment. Paper presented at ASCILITE 2015, Perth, WA. Retrieved from http://www.2015conference.ascilite.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/ascilite-2015-proceedings.pdf

Jones, A & Bennett, R. (2014). Dissolving the online-offline divide: Re-conceptualizing space in higher education course design. Paper presented at proceedings of the 23rd annual Teaching Learning Forum, Perth, WA. Retrieved from https://clt.curtin.edu.au/events/conferences/tlf/tlf2014/refereed/jones.pdf

Kligyte, G. (2009). Threshold concept: A lens for examining networked learning. Paper presented at ASCILITE 2009, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org/conferences/auckland09/procs/kligyte-poster.pdf

Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a design science: Building pedagogical patterns for learning and technology. New York, NY: Routledge.

Lavoie, D., Rosman, A., & Sharma, S. (2011). Information Literacy by Design: Recalibrating Graduate Professional Online Programs. In T. Mackey & T. Jacobson (Eds.). Teaching Information Literacy Online (pp. 133-152). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Le Cornu, R & Peters, J. (2005). Towards constructivist classrooms: the role of the reflective teacher. Journal of Educational Enquiry, 6(1).

Selwyn, N. Technology and education: why it’s crucial to be critical. Retrieved 8 September from, https://www.academia.edu/7771394/Technology_and_education_-_why_its_crucial_to_be_critical

Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing Knowledge. Retrieved 8 September, from, http://www.elearnspace.org/KnowingKnowledge_LowRes.pdf

Socol, I.D. (2008). The Toolbelt and Universal Design – Education for everyone. Retrieved 8 September, from, http://speedchange.blogspot.com.au/p/blog-page_2046.html

Toyama, K. (2011). There Are No Technology Shortcuts In Good Education. Retrieved 8 September, 2017, from http://edutechdebate.org/ict-in-schools/there-are-no-technology-shortcuts-to-good-education/

As a learner, participation in NGL was useful to me

As a learner, participation in NGL was useful to me

I have always had a self-directed mindset to my own learning, especially in finding the methods that are most effective and motivating for me. I chose to use NGL to learn Auslan, and in doing I began to question my learning process. Overall, NGL did not help me learn Auslan. NGL might have been useful if someone learnt Auslan with me, or if I had chosen a “digital” learning task that had the potential to foster within an online environment (such as Samanthi’s endeavour to teach children to code, or Madelein’s decision to learn Second Life). The struggle to learn Auslan was discussed in my post, “A Learner’s Reflection.” Throughout my learning endeavour, I yearned for human interaction, or for someone to learn Auslan with me. This sentiment is endorsed by Costa and Kallick (2008) who acknowledge that learning is enhanced when we learn with others. However, I did not seek support from my fellow EDU8117 peers in relation to Auslan. Instead, I took a close look at my learning network and used CLEM (Communities, Literature, Examples & Models) to seek out practice-based communities (Jones, 2017). I discovered an eight week Auslan class at my local library. Upon attending, I determined the class was a combination of a practice-based and knowledge-based community (Riel and Polin, 2004). By undertaking Auslan classes, I learnt the basics of signing, which EDU8117 could not provide me. You can check out my amateur signing abilities in the clip below.

Although EDU8117 did not help me learn Auslan, it paradoxically pushed me outside my comfort zone and compelled me to make connections via networking, both within formal and informal environments. Unfortunately, I have not become fluent in Auslan. However, I believe my Auslan inefficiency does not reflect the usefulness of NGL principles. This is supported by Downes (2011) who states that the value of a learning experience resides in the process, not the content. As a learner, participation in NGL was useful to me as it showed me the imminence of networked learning within day-to-day experiences. NGL principles such as CLEM, Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) and connectivism showed me that learners can “access endless sources of information, build relationships, collaborate and develop knowledge outside formal educational environments (Kligyte, 2009). This reinforces the notion that lifelong learning occurs beyond the classroom. This is supported by Tobin (2000) who states that “real learning” – the information that is retained and used beyond a course – can only be determined by the learner themselves. Therefore, similarly to my experience as a student, it became clear that “as a learner,” I was in control of my learning journey, and was subconsciously using NGL principles to aid my learning process.

In addition, participation in NGL was useful as it gave me the opportunity to reflect and gain insight into the way I learnt and constructed knowledge (Siemens, 2008). NGL encouraged critical thinking by allowing me to question myself and others, thus “courageously risking the stability of our social worlds,” (Hearn, 2013). In exploring PKM, I discovered the value of “sensing,” and appreciated the fundamental role it played in the digestion of information. I acknowledged this in my PKM post, by stating that;

Sensing is a big part of my PKM routine. I mostly do this by writing. I am a crazy writer. I write about everything…just to make sense of it…writing challenges my views and perceptions, which I believe is a core of the sensing element,” (Andersen, 2017).

As a learner, blogging was the perfect channel to “sense,” and “share,” (Jarche, 2014). Blogging also represented the true nature of NGL. This is supported by Barnes (2017) who states;

Blogging is an assemblage of loaded words, meanings, images, and politics which can set up relationships across time and space. The writers, the humans who are the creators of the online text, are both simultaneously human, machine and text. Cyborgic assemblages which take on a life of their own once “Publish” is clicked. Cyborgic text which co-functions in symbiosis, in sympathy but not necessarily in harmony. Blogging is an act of inquiry. Blogging, if the author of the text is willing and open, is an act of becoming,” (Barnes, 2017; Deleuze & Guattari, 1987).

The characteristics of blogging, as described by Barnes (2017) are also the characteristics of a network (Downes, 2011). As a learner, this quote resonated with me, as it made me realise the connections between everything I have learnt in my past, everything I have learnt through EDU8117, and everything I have learnt on my quest to learn Auslan. The “distributed world of information [suddenly] appeared to be coherently connected,” and I realised I was experiencing the integrative features of the Threshold Concept (Kligyte, 2009, p. 531). In using NGL as a learner, I have felt like “a restless, nomadic, unruly thinker who settles down for a while to explore a new terrain, building on…earlier adventures, and then picking up what was most worth keeping and moving on (Barnes, 2017; Soja, 1996). I believe this is a reflection of connectivism (Siemens, 2008; Downes, 2011), which is imperative to lifelong learning.

Overall, participation in NGL was useful by allowing me to understand the meaning of my experience via blogging (Costa and Kallick, 2008). According to Barnes (2017), blogging as inquiry is a method which challenges the notion that writing is a natural and linear process. In fact, Barnes (2017) argues that blogging is liminal. I agree with Barnes (2017), and do not wish to box my learning process in a framework for fear of limiting its liminality.

NGL has helped me discover my identity and process as a learner. I have stepped over the “threshold” and understand the knowledge obtained from NGL cannot be “unlearned,” (Kligyte, 2009). NGL has shown me that learning – true lifelong learning – will always involve “messy journeys back and forth across conceptual terrains,” (Cousins, 2006), through endless connections (Downes, 2011).

This leads me to conclude that lifelong learning thrives in liminality.

References

Andersen, N. (2017). Personal Knowledge Management. Retrieved 4 September, 2017, from, https://openpagesweb.wordpress.com/2017/08/13/my-personal-knowledge-management-pkm/

Barnes, N. (2017). Blogging as a method of inquiry. Reconceptualizing Educational Research Methodology, 8(1), 17 -26. doi: 10.7577/rerm.2236

Costa, A & Kallick, B. (2008). Learning through reflection. Retrieved 4 September, 2017, from, http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108008/chapters/Learning-Through-Reflection.aspx

Cousin, G. (2006). An introduction to threshold concepts. Planet No 17, December 2006, Retrieved 4 September, 2017, from http://www.gees.ac.uk/planet/p17/gc.pdf

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus. (Brian Massumi, Trans) Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Downes, S. (2011). ‘Connectivism’ and Connective Knowledge. Retrieved 4 September, 2017, from, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/connectivism-and-connecti_b_804653.html

Downes, S. (2011). Groups vs Networks: the Class Struggle Continues. Retrieved 4 September, 2017, from http://www.downes.ca/post/42521

Hearn, A. (2013). Situation critical. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 10(2-3), pp. 273-279.

Jarche, H. (2014). What is your PKM routine? Retrieved 4 September, 2017, from http://jarche.com/2014/03/what-is-your-pkm-routine/

Jones, D. (2017). An Experiment in Networked & Global Learning – Week 4 – CLEM and Community. Retrieved 4 September, 2017, from, https://netgl.wordpress.com/study-schedule-2/week-4-clem-and-community/

Kligyte, G. (2009). Threshold concept: A lens for examining networked learning. Paper presented at ASCILITE 2009, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org/conferences/auckland09/procs/kligyte-poster.pdf

Riel, M., & Polin, L. (2004). Online learning communities: Common ground and critical differences in designing technical environments. In S. A. Barab, R. Kling, & J. Gray (Eds.), Designing for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning (pp. 16–50). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Siemens, G. (2008). New structures and spaces of learning: The systemic impact of connective knowledge, connectivism, and networked learning. Retrieved 2 September, from. http://elearnspace.org/Articles/systemic_impact.htm

Soja, E. W. (1996). Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and other real-and-imagined places. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell.

Tobin, D. (2000). All Learning is Self-Directed. Alexandria, VA: ASTD.

 

 

As a student, participation in NGL was useful to me

As a student, participation in NGL was useful to me

From the moment I started NGL, I found it difficult to engage deeply and overtly. The structure of NGL intimidated me because it did not comply with the conventional format and familiarity of tertiary courses that I have previously undertaken. As a student, I have mostly participated in formal learning environments. Therefore, I became rather disoriented in an informal environment (Jarche, 2006). However, I sought comfort in Kligyte’s (2006) threshold concept. I allowed myself to experience liminality, defined by Cousins (2006) as “messy journeys back, forth and across conceptual terrain,” but I was also determined to retrieve an “integrative” and “irreversible” learning experience (Kligyte, 2009).

As a student, participation in NGL was useful to me for a number of reasons. Firstly, I found immense value in peer learning. “Peer learning is an educational practice in which students interact with other students to attain educational goals,” (O’Donnell and King, 1999). Throughout NGL, I was enthralled by Mitch’s knowledge on blockchain technology and Web 2.0, and I gained practical value from the technologies within Lauren’s “toolbelt,” including the Bubbl.us software, in which I used to construct my own learning network (Socol, 2008). Additionally, I was fortunate enough to have my colleague Samanthi undertake this journey with me. Samanthi and I were able to escape the confines of online learning by bouncing ideas off one another in a face-to-face environment, especially in relation to our assessment requirements as a student.

By reading my peers’ thoughts via their personalised blogs, I was able to analyse the way others learnt and could apply this to my own work as a student. In my post on PKM, I labelled observation as a key factor in the seeking phrase of Jarche’s (2014) Seek, Sense and Share framework. By reading other students’ posts and listening to the recorded Zoom sessions, I was able to engage “intellectually, emotionally and socially in a constructive conversation…by questioning each other’s views and reaching consensus or dissent,” (Boud, 2001). Despite the value I gained from peer learning, I believe that as a group, we did not harness its full potential.

This is reasoned by our small class size, low levels of interactivity and the accredited aspects of the NGL curriculum. As a group, we were governed by learning objectives and timeframes, which are the characteristics of a task-based community (Riel and Polin, 2004). These attributes imposed significant limitations on the empowerment of peer learning. For example:

  • As students, we all focused on the quality of our own blogs, instead of generating discussions on the blogs of others and;
  • The management of multiple blogs meant there was no centrality for authentic conversation, and further opportunities for peer learning

In addition, Siemens (2008) acknowledges that accreditation drives higher education. This leads me to believe that marking rubrics drive student participation. Consequently, adhering to NGL assessment requirements (such as linking to other people’s blog) averted me from the true potency of peer learning. Despite this shortcoming, I obtained more value from peer-learning than NGL’s course content. This is because content has a short life-span (Siemens 2006). Despite my perception that certain assessment requirements hindered peer learning, participation in NGL has taught me to let go of “I” and embrace “we,” (Barnes, 2017). Blogging within NGL has created a community, where “I continuously am a record of my becoming,” and “am linking to the becoming of others,” (Barnes, 2017, p. 24). As such, blogging is a method of inquiry, as well as a method of collaboration (Barnes, 2017). Cross (1999) acknowledges that learning is about making connections and exploring new ways of thinking. These characteristics were active within peer learning, and thus useful to me as a student.

Participation in NGL was also useful to me, as it gave me a sense of student ownership. Siemens (2008) states that “different learners have different needs,” thus, arguing that learners should be in control of their learning journey. Tobin (2000, p. 12) agrees by stating that “all learning is self-directed,” and that “we foster our growth when we control our learning,” (Costa and Kallick, 2008). A sense of self-directedness and self-ownership was present within NGL. Firstly, Socol’s (2008) Toolbelt Theory gave me ownership over the tools I used in alignment with the TEST (Task, Environment, Skills and Tools) framework. The idea behind Universal Design Technology and the Toolbelt Theory, is that as human we differ – “our tasks differ…our environments differ…our circumstances differ…and we pick the appropriate tool,” to suit our differences (Socol, 2008). With this ideology, the Toolbelt Theory gave me ownership over technology, and its use within different contexts.

In addition, my student ownership was enhanced with the realisation that Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) is driven by personalisation (Jarche, 2014). In order to establish an effective PKM routine, people have to find out what works for them (Jarche, 2014). The importance of personalisation is reinforced by Siemens (2008) who states that some students prefer high degrees of social interaction, while others prefer a more individual approach. Looking at the blogs of my peers, our individuality and self-directedness is seen through each of our posts and the way we have tailored them in association with Chris’s facilitation skills, and the NGL curriculum. Having control over our ideas via blogging meant that as students, we could construct our own knowledge, based on a constructive learning framework (Le Cornu and Peters, 2005; Siemens, 2008). This level of control intrinsically motivated me to produce quality work on my own blog.

Overall, participating in NGL taught me that:

  • I owned my PKM routine. The way I sought, sensed and shared information could only be determined by me;
  • I owned my “toolbelt,” and could select the tools I needed in relation to the task and environment
  • I owned my blog and the ideas expressed within it. I realised that as I shaped my blog, my blog shaped me, and as a result “I have become more grounded in my world view,” (Barnes, 2017, p.21).

This leads me to agree with what Siemens (2008) has been saying all along – that as a student, I own my learning journey.

 

References:

Barnes, N. (2017). Blogging as a method of inquiry. Reconceptualizing Educational Research Methodology, 8(1), 17 -26. doi: 10.7577/rerm.2236

Boud, D. (2001). ‘Introduction: Making the Move to Peer Learning’. In Boud, D., Cohen, Ruth & Sampson, Jane (Ed.). Peer Learning in Higher Education: Learning From & With Each Other. London: Kogan Page Ltd, 1–17.

Costa, A & Kallick, B. (2008). Learning through reflection. Retrieved 2 September, 2017, from, http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/108008/chapters/Learning-Through-Reflection.aspx

Cousin, G. (2006). An introduction to threshold concepts. Planet No 17, December 2006, Retrieved 2 September, 2017, from http://www.gees.ac.uk/planet/p17/gc.pdf

Cross, P. (1999). Learning is about making connections. Retrieved 2 September, from, http://djames84.net/Cert_51/Learning%20Is%20About%20Connections.pdf

Jarche, H. (2006). Formal education needs more informal learning. Retrieved 2 September, from, http://jarche.com/2006/10/formal-education-needs-more-informal-learning/

Jarche, H. (2014). What is your PKM routine? Retrieved 2 September, 2017, from http://jarche.com/2014/03/what-is-your-pkm-routine/

Kligyte, G. (2009). Threshold concept: A lens for examining networked learning. Paper presented at ASCILITE 2009, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org/conferences/auckland09/procs/kligyte-poster.pdf

Le Cornu, R & Peters, J. (2005). Towards constructivist classrooms: the role of the reflective teacher. Journal of Educational Enquiry, 6(1).

O’Donnell, A. & King, A. (1999). Cognitive perspectives on peer learning. Lawrence Erlbaum

Riel, M., & Polin, L. (2004). Online learning communities: Common ground and critical differences in designing technical environments. In S. A. Barab, R. Kling, & J. Gray (Eds.), Designing for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning (pp. 16–50). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing Knowledge. Retrieved 2 September, from, http://www.elearnspace.org/KnowingKnowledge_LowRes.pdf

Siemens, G. (2008). New structures and spaces of learning: The systemic impact of connective knowledge, connectivism, and networked learning. Retrieved 2 September, from. http://elearnspace.org/Articles/systemic_impact.htm

Socol, I.D. (2008). The Toolbelt and Universal Design – Education for everyone. Retrieved 2 September, from, http://speedchange.blogspot.com.au/p/blog-page_2046.html

Tobin, D. (2000). All Learning is Self-Directed. Alexandria, VA: ASTD.