Saturday, December 5, 2009

How has my network changed the way I learn?

In the past, I used to think that I would have to take a traditional classroom course or buy a book to learn about something. But, nowadays, knowledge can be obtained instantaneously everywhere, at any time and from any place. Information can be delivered to me via Twitter or Facebook, and I can join different bulletin boards and forums. I can also search for the expertise via YouTube or Google. Then, there are online universities that have sprouted up, like Phoenix and Walden, which offer a structured learning approach with a mentor/coach to facilitate my learning process.

The best tools for me involve a combination of technologies & people. For example, I have a laptop, a blackberry & mobile phone, and internet access. In addition, I use a variety of social media tools (such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and rely heavily on search engines and wikis. To complement these technologies, it is critical that I maintain a huge social network of several hundred friends and colleagues. I surround myself with subject matter experts and a network of business contacts.

Nevertheless, even though I have these technology tools and connections, it doesn’t mean much unless I have a process for being able to keep up with the information. I need both a process to follow and discipline to follow through. And when I have questions, I also need to be brave enough to reach out to my network and ask.

My personal learning network is very much aligned with the central tenets of connectivism. First of all, my personal contacts are from all walks of life, and they have differing opinions. If “learning and knowledge rest in a diversity of opinions”, then I have built a very rich learning environment. Secondly, “capacity to learn more is more critical than what is already known.” I am driven to learn more, because I just don’t know enough. The world is complex and constantly changing. I could never know enough. Last but not least, “nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.” Indeed, it’s not what you know that matters so much anymore. And it’s not even who you know that is the most important. What really matters is the ability to meet and connect with the right person and the right sources of information at the right time.

(Quotes are all from reading assignment:  "Connectivism" by Davis, Edmunds, and Kelly-Bateman)

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