Today I created this diagram that demonstrates my Personal Learning Environment. I am proud to say that I use all of these online platforms to learn new things that I am passionate about! Each and every piece is meaningful and equally important for my personal and professional development, and I use most or even all of them on a daily basis. Some of these networks represent my educational/academic path, while some others assist me professionally. Yet, those are not enough; I still need tools/networks to help me express my creativity, and even more as things get more technical! By connecting each piece of the puzzle, together, they help shape the picture of my passion - educational technology for teaching and learning (even though to complete the picture takes longer than the lifetime itself!)
This summer I will be taking my last EDTECH course - EDTECH 543: Social Network Learning. As can be seen from the title, the course will explore the underlying theories and practices of integrating social networks into teaching and learning. Not surprisingly, my first assignment included signing up for accounts on FB, Twitter, and Diigo, as well as posting my homework across those platforms. Here is one of them:
Q1: What are you initial reactions about joining these social networks for use in this course?
To be frank, posting a homework assignment on Facebook and Twitter felt a bit weird (and even uncomfortable!) I think I had done a “good” job “disciplining” myself and separating social media from my professional life. I have never been an active user of social media sites to begin with, even though I have or have had an account with most of the major platforms (such FB, Twitter, Diigo, LinkedIn, etc.) Still, I have always had mixed feelings about social media, seeing it both positively (connecting people and sharing ideas), on the one hand, and negatively (wasting one’s time and bringing unnecessary “crowd and noise” into one’s life), on the other. I have closed and re-opened accounts, each time reducing the number of “friends” and clarifying the purpose and ways of using this social space. After a considerable amount of thinking and reflecting I came to believe that, just like in the real life, I am very selective and must have certain control over what information I receive and from whom. Also, until now, "doing homework" used to mean a quiet time and a special place (no Facebook:); that is why I felt rather disoriented as I was posting this week's assignment. Using a closed group for the assignment helped, but seeing non-related posting and pictures felt distracting. This is clearly something I will have to get used to!
Q2: What is your experience in using social media for your own professional development?
As I described above, I am quite a selective user of social media, with an emphasis on professional development rather than entertainment. I belong to a number of groups based on my professional and personal interests (from education to photography.) Again, after having closed and re-opened accounts on FB and Twitter, I realized that for me personally, the best use of these platform would be to connect with people based on professional or educational goals and interests rather than with those who I happened to meet in real life. Another beneficial use was when I was blogging: I had many people with similar interests and engaged into interesting conversations.
Q3:What is your experience in using social media as an instructional strategy in your learning environment?
Actually, none, even though I have been thinking about it for quite some time now. Again, having mixed feelings about social media myself, I am not sure where to start... At some point, I just asked my student about how they felt about using FB for class, but that did not help - some said they had had such an experience and liked it, others said they did not have a FB account and were not considering opening one, yet some others said they wanted to keep FB as their space for personal and fun life and not to “spoil” it with school related activities. But I feel that I am still looking for ways to give it a try!
Q4: What are your expectations for this course?
My expectation for this course are that it will finally push me out of my comfort zone and I will have to search for ways to finally integrate social networking into my teaching. I am also looking for sharing my experience with some like-minded people and learning together. Finally, I am looking forward to reading literature and research about best practices or shortcomings of using social network in education. I also expect to have another great EDTECH course!