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Sharing from OLC’s Emerging Technologies Conference

by Karen Nichols

Actually, the above chart is an indirect find while researching, on my own, an item that came up during a few of the conference presentations I've attended virtually from the Online Learning Consortium's Emerging Technologies Conference. I hadn't thought about Personal Learning Networks (PLN's) as such but am now realizing just how much our learning landscape (Personal Learning Environment) has changed due to technology and social media. We're now learning from myriad sources that didn't exist when I was a child.

Just think of all of the interactions users of social media have with each other on a daily basis and all of the information that is shared.  Of course we can classify what we've "learned" into several different categories.  I place what my Facebook friend Marie had for lunch (fried shrimp, complete with photo) on a very low level, but found it very interesting and useful to learn what my Facebook friend who is a horticulturalist had to say about gerber daisies. (They release their oxygen at night unlike most plants so having gerber daisies in your bedroom may help you sleep better.)

In conjunction with creating your own PLN which will probably include various social networks, here are a few key points from conference sessions attended that I would like to share with you.

Bonnie Stewart (University of Prince Edward Island, CA) explained and explored the concept of many-to-many communication.  To visually illustrate the impact of using social media like Twitter to share information, she first asked us to think of our favorite color.  She then had each of us speaking to different people and those people would pass on what we shared.  While doing this, she asked us to imagine our flow of conversation as our favorite color and then to imagine all of the flows of conversation using everyone's favorite color.  She contrasted this form of learning with the old "sage on the stage" model still being used by some professors in academe.

Heutagogy or self-determined learning was the topic presented by Vickie Cook (University of Illinois Springfield, USA).  She discussed the increase in student use of mobile devices for learning and how we as educators can adapt.  In fact, here is a test sponsored by Google to determine if your website is responsive or mobile-friendly.

Much work has been done using Bloom's Digital Taxonomy.  Keeping this in mind, Ghania Zgheib (George Mason University, USA) shared with us several social media learning activities as well as the results of the student feedback.  She made extensive use of Facebook and Twitter and actually encouraged students to interact with people outside of their class.  A few audience members expressed concern about using such open social media and said they preferred more closed opportunities for sharing such as discussion boards.

So now I'm more aware of the Personal Learning Environment and the Personal Learning Network I've created for myself.  I'm paying more attention to the original source of a piece of information and the people who passed it on and on until it arrived on my desktop.  Since I'll be teaching online French again this summer, I'm thinking about my students' PLN's and hoping the social media activities I'm planning for their learning will be well-received.  I'm not quite sure if they are aware of the power they have over their own learning.  I believe we should each assess our PLN and see if there's room for improvement!

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