Huh…what else is there to online learning anyways?

So this is what we have been told, right, that online learning is really taking your existing practices online – board teaching, presentations and shares, chat and forums. But that’s not the truth. In fact, in many situations, these practices may be totally inadequate and you will wonder why you ever even thought it was ever going to work!

Curious? What else is there to online learning?

It turns out that the process of going online starts with understanding one important thing (and many of you may have made that leap already), and that is your learning is inextricably tied to the learning of and from others – i.e. the network.

The network informs, educates, influences and inspires you to become a better educator.

Sharing and caring within support teaching communities has been found to lead to indirect improvements in teaching-learning. It has a direct impact on your self-efficacy (meaning you are able to help yourself & build competency through the people and resources in your networks). It builds your self-esteem as an educator. It also shortens the time you take to understand and adopt new ideas. Obviously, networks are built on reciprocal relationships, so what you contribute and how you care for others in your network, is equally important. Networks help you expand your reach, your horizons and your knowledge.

To start cultivating your network, you need to explore and engage with various communities online. People and communities, and the resources they share, are simply a few exploratory steps away. Over time your network will become a series of layers, starting with an innermost small network of connections with you build trust and extending outwards gradually into wider and wider layers of networks.

The second really important piece that you construct over time is your Personal Learning Environment or PLE. Your school or institution would ask you to log in to a centralized learning platform and upload your resources and use its tools & features.

The PLE, in contrast, is your own set of open and free tools and content sources.

You build it to contain tools and knowledge that you need in order to learn and perform. This could contain tools for connecting to other (social networks or communities of practice), storing and indexing your content (cloud drives), mind-maps, communicating with others (web conferencing tools), blogs and many other tools.

These two, taken together, make you a networked teacher, both externally in your networks, and internally, in terms of how you organize your own learning environments.

Networked Teacher Diagram - Update
This interesting diagram, by Alec Couros, shows what the networked teacher really is.

If you can pivot to becoming a networked teacher, you will take your first step towards truly learning and teaching online. This is more than just andragogy or principles of adult learning. This is heutagogy – the development of your own capability to learn in which the network, rather than any single coach, peer or teacher educator, forms a central dimension.

Starting with the network is also synonymous with building a new identity online. This takes time and honest effort to put in place, but well worth the effort!

This is just the beginning. There are many new and exciting things to discover in the paradigm once you start looking at your own learning through the network lens.

In fact, in the next post, we will explore something very startling to even think about! Interested, keep tuned in!

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