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.
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