Monday, April 13, 2009

On Networks and Networking Awareness

I am concerned with not becoming too closed to rely on learning first from within my closest circle of friends. I realise it is a natural trend. I am far readier to accept recommendations to read from people I contact more often. As inspiring as they all are, gradually they are becoming my comfort zone of learning, which makes me wonder whether I practice what I preach.

I believe a network is an organic entity. It needs permeability. Some RSS feeds going in and out of my attention constantly. A network needs to allow me to reach the people and places where sense will be made here and now in my learning journey. This reaching out/pulling nodes process has to be elastic and fairly easy -at least in theory.

I find all of the above is related to the dichotomy sometimes expressed like this:
In blogs, you subscribe to content. In Twitter, you subscribe to the person.
Or vice versa. It does not matter too much. There is no correct way of doing it. What is necessary, if we are to make sense, is to be aware every time what, how and why we are subscribing.

Reading the Wise is easy, sifting for great thoughts in a sea of publications is more like the kind of advanced literacy we will need.

We go from content to people to achieve learning resulting in networking. My point is it should not end there. The process needs to restart all over again at several points.

Just wanted to note down this to bring me back to the original track. Sometimes I go astray in my learning journey.

Image credit
Ammonite Circlets

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

LinkedIn Networked Learning

I asked a question within LinkedIn Answers. I let people know I would re-share answers openly in my blog, so here is my little analysis and synthesis of the learning.
For those with a LinkedIn account, the full conversation is here.

Are there examples of LinkedIn used for educational purposes?

I would like to know if anyone has created a LinkedIn profile or group to either use it as a platform or an online support to any kind of formal training session. If so, how successful was it? I am interested in pedagogical implications on the use of a social network tool like LinkedIn. ideas and results of this will be published in my blog ELT Notes. Thank you.

Now, I have been bookmarking countless tools bloggers and open media lovers have explored and reviewed to weigh their networking and conversation carrier potential. You may be wondering why I posed a question on a closed forum like LinkedIn?

Two simple reasons
1) Learning happens where people are striking up conversations. There certainly is a lot of learning going on in there. I wonder how people experience it.

2) The idea of diverse networking
This requires more than 140 characters to explain.
The scenario is complex
-Different online venues for conversation
-Different people, varied educational background, geography, mother tongues.

For my network not to become closed or a replica of my Twitter contacts inside LinkedIn groups, I necessarily need to reach people far and wide with my question if I am to obtain something different to challenge my thinking. I think there is a vast majority of non-blogging experts busily learning there: 35 million+ people. I wonder what proportion makes use of the Answers feature. Still, too much expertise to leave out of my PLE.

The answers
How people who answered view LinkedIn:
  • A social platform with tremendous networking and learning possibilities.
  • A place not only to read but to contribute.
  • A place to ask your questions where help is pretty much guaranteed and fast.
  • A platform where lots of informal learning happens.

Dear co-bloggers, please re-read the bullets.
OK. I agree and suspect none of us would describe LinkedIn as such a tool or place.

Jay Cross quotes from an email he received,
[...] I am an active FaceBook user (but only with friends and family) and am making more use of LinkedIn, but I don't find either particularly effective in supporting my learning or the small circles of people that I learn with. Am I missing something? [...]
Then Jay answers,
Most of what we learn, we learn from other people.
You say apps like LinkedIn don't add much to your learning, yet you contacted me through LinkedIn and I hope the connection adds to your learning.

We would certainly hurry in a hello wave to say that Twitter is precisely the place where networking and informal learning can actually happen.

Now, regardless of the results we can obtain if we compare LinkedIn to, say, Ning, isn't the attitude LinkedIn active users reveal in those answers what we would like our students to grasp? The very attitude towards the web and networking activity that underpins every literacy definition we sketch?

Fine. Well, many people within LinkedIn have that attitude.

How many of us are thinking of exploiting the expertise that can come into and out of our classrooms aided by LinkedIn?

Please point me to examples you may have or know of.

Open to be answered in LinkedIn for 7 more days. Open here for the life of Blogger and beyond.

Marginally relevant. Some technical aspects
(if you are familiar with LinkedIn, skip this)
LinkedIn platform has several opportunities for conversation:
-private- contact to contact. Possibilities increase in this direction only if you upgrade your service.
-private within a circle, i.e. a group. You need to be approved by the owner or managers.
-Open. Anyone with an account can ask and answer all questions posed.

Some drawbacks
-The question expires after a few days. You may extend the expiry date.
-Questions are grouped under generic subject lines. Then the machine ranks latest on top of the list. No further organisation possible.
-Search engine for answers section only is available. I believe results show only the questions that are still open. So archiving learning conversations will not happen unless you link elsewhere.

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