Educon reflection: learning in public online

Educon2.4 was, as anticipated, a great conference this year. There were many great sessions and conversations. This was my second time attending Educon, and I thought the conversations seemed richer both formally in the sessions and less formal hallway discussions. One topic that has stayed with me for reflection, is the idea of learning in public online.

I have been following the learning journey of Dean Shareski. Over the last few months, Dean has been studying the ins and outs of learning online in public, beginning with his own learning.  I admire Dean for putting his own learning and experiences ‘out there’ first. In the Learning Project, Dean posts a video online requesting help to learn to play the guitar. Through online connections, Dean eventually connected  with a music teacher who supported Dean’s learning request by having his students prepare videos to teach Dean various aspect of guiar techniques. The full project description is described here in the  The Learning Project blog post.

Dean’s project demonstrates a great example of learning of learning on line in public through network connections, collaboration tools such as skype, video resources personalized for the needed learning experience and shared through blog reflections.

As part of the presentation, Dean referenced  Shannon Smith who is also experiencing online public learning. Learn more about Shannon’s journey here: Clarinet lesson.  My family had the pleasure of dining with Shannon and Brent on Saturday night at the conference. It was a wonderful evening of conversation, in which we learned about our many musical connections and interests.

At Educon, Dean and Alec Couros led a discussion around this idea of learning online in public. There was a great discussion around the considerations that learning online in public raises:

  • when is learning in public appropriate?
  • what are the privacy implications for students?
  • how would any negative comments be received and handled?
  • how do we prepare pre-service teachers for this type of learning environment?
  • what are the benefits?
  • are there drawbacks?
  • how do we best teach students to manage their online profiles?
  • how do students best create and manage on online portfolio?
  • what else?

The framework of learning online and in public is here as demonstrated. Helping students to develop and manage a personal learning network is an important part of preparing students for the future. I believe the need to use online resources, connections and crowd sourcing to collaborate and problem solve is the way of the future. Simple tools such as a blog can serve as a personal portfolio for students to capture their journey, sharing and reflections.

While this seems like a natural direction or next step, there is much work to do. Many people are uncomfortable in this environments. We have to put strategies in place on overcome the fear factor.  Teachers must be able to put themselves in the place of the learner in this new environment. I believe significant change is needed in pre-service teacher programs to have new professionals ready and comfortable in this environment.

As a post conference follow up, I had the pleasure of assisting Shannon with her clarinet lessons by preparing a recording to assist in her learning. Thanks to the internet, distance was no barrier to providing assistance: a pdf of the music notation was exchanged by email, I recorded the music using an iRig mic on my iPhone e-delivered the audio recording back to Shannon.  I hope I can continue to be involved in Shannon’s music journey!

~Mark

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