BreakDrink, CTCX

Delicious Until the Last Sip… Goodbye @BreakDrink!

It’s been a while coming, but a couple of days ago Papa BreakDrink, Jeff Jackson, pulled the plug on BreakDrink.com. I am sad to see it go, but I am happy for what it was. This side project brought together a collaborative spirit of sharing and discussion around topics in Student Affairs and Higher Education, specifically “dedicated to providing alternative forms of professional development.” For the experiences, interactions, and laughs – I am fortunate to have had the pleasure. Thanks BreakDrink Family & Campus Tech Connection (#CTCX) listeners/friends.  [p.s. There are a number of our shows sitting in the archives should you want to take a listening walk down memory lane or check it out for the first time.]

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 Over the last few years a number of new (social media) spaces and places have appeared for Student and Academic Affairs professionals to flock to for trends, issues, news, learning, and connection. It might be my lack of interest in competing in the higher ed market place to be “the next big thing” online, or just a shift in personal and/or academic priorities – but it is time to say farewell to BreakDrink.com.
breakdrink_icon I would like to sincerely thank Jeff Jackson for instigating @BreakDrink, and inviting me via a Twitter DM to join the fun with Jeff Lail & then Bruce Mann. From thoughtful discussions, interesting debates, lively podcast interviews, snarky comments, new online training initiatives, mentoring relationships, and growing friendships – I say a fond goodbye to the BreakDrink family and friends. This community of practice has been a solid part of my informal/alternative professional development plan. From this beginning, I have continued to research and work in this area of higher education, and I am grateful to those who lit this spark.
I owe a great deal to many who are accomplices to the BreakDrink experience,  (see Jeff’s Pull the Plug Post) by contributing as podcasters, bloggers, creatives, brainstormers, and then some – I’m looking at you Julie Larsen. As we close this chapter of our lives, I am proud to say that I am leaving BreakDrink with some new tech skills, a broader understanding about things in the Student Affairs and Ed Tech realm, a new support professional network, and a few amazing people in my life. Here’s to our continued friendship, learning and sharing, BreakDrink Family! Until the next podcast or blog post… Laura Pasquini, for @BreakDrink #CTCX is signing off from BreakDrink.com! {Cue the closing music.}
Learning Community, PLN

Building Communities of Practice in Higher Ed

A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Milton Cox from Miami University, met with a group of students, staff and faculty to share ideas on how to build effective communities of practice at UNT known as Collaborative Learning Communities (CLC).  In his lecture and our discussion, Dr. Cox shared suggestions on how to “mind the gap(s)” in higher education and consider the broken spaces between our current disciplines, departments and silos on campus.  The process of connecting to establish a community of practice (in his example, faculty learning communities) it is to connect faculty and their institutions to think beyond their department, discipline and separate goals for the campus.
Image c/o Dr. Milton Cox
It is all to common to see department loyalty being rewarded and interdisciplinary activity questioned in higher education. There are also disconnects between student development and academic affairs priorities. For higher education to move forward it will be critical for faculty and staff to engage students in new ways of learning and scholarly activity. Although many students want to see the sage on the stage, to just consume information, it will be increasingly critical for our learning institutions to encourage inquiry-based learning and promote self-regulated scholarship.
One way to close the education gap and challenges in higher education, is to consider forming communities of practice (CoP) that work together. There are a number of students, staff and faculty need to collaborate to discuss civic engagement, learning communities, and pedagogical shifts to our higher education curriculum. Dr. Cox introduced the concept of Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs), which tend to be more structured than the organic CoP, and they are voluntary, structured, and at least a yearlong commitment from the members. Here are some other suggested practices for setting up FLCs:
  • size: 8-12 faculty, professionals, Administrators, TAs, students
  • voluntary membership by application
  • Affiliate patterns: consultants, mentors, student associates
  • multidisciplinary and from different departments
  • encourage participant curiosity
  • allow for richness of innovations
  • permitted relief from dysfunctional units
As we connected and discussed ideas around our own Collaborative Learning Communities (CLCs), we found sharing ideas could help work towards resolving institutional challenges and support the strategic goals for our campus. As our CLCs gather and collaborate, I am looking forward to connecting, brainstorming, and creating initiatives that will enhance what we do on campus.
Along with this idea for collaborative learning communities, Sue Beckingham, Jeff Jackson, Eric Stoller and I hope to discuss this topic as a #sxswEDU panel in 2013 => Communities of Practice in Higher Education as we hope to answer the following questions:
  1. How can communities of practice and learning networks play a critical role in meeting the challenges of higher education across the globe?
  2. As professional and personal learning networks (PLNs) develop, how can these informal entities support and contribute to the future of higher education?
  3. What are some actionable items and issues that higher education communities of practice can take on both at the local and global level?
Sign in and CAST YOUR VOTE HERE.

References:

Cox, M. & Richlin, L.  (2004). New Directions for Teaching and Learning:  Building Faculty Learning Communities.  Vol. 97.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wenger, E. (2002) Communities of practice. Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Volume 1.5, Article 5. Elsevier Science, Amsterdam. 
#AcWri, #phdchat, Learning Community, Learning Technologies, PLN, Social Media

Personal Connections in the Digital Age – A Book Review

Speaking of book reviews… there are a few texts I’m reading now that I will be submitting for #acwri projects and there are others I will blog about from my #SummerReading list, such as Personal Connection in the Digital Age by Nancy K. Baym

Personal Connections in the Digital Age #summerreading

This book was published in 2010 as part of the digital media and society series to share how new technologies are impacting our lives and altering our communication. As I research and compile information on digital media and its impact for learning and training for my literature review I thought this academic work provided a solid overview of digital relationships. By sharing the evolution of technology, mediated communication, and online community development, Nancy Baym presents both theoretical frameworks and historical perspectives about digital media’s influence on our society and personal relationships.

Baym provides an overview of interpersonal communication, and she threads both academic research and societal practices of digital media use in this book. As an academic text, there are a number of detailed references and theoretical underpinnings that I have flagged to follow-up as I edit my own literature review. For others who might not be researching and writing in this area, I think this book is still accessible and an interesting read as digital and social media consumes our lives. The technical jargon is kept to a minimum and the writing flows well with research, examples, and anecdotes intertwined in the text.

As I read this book, it was easy to reflect on my personal connections and how digital media shapes my PLN. I thought about how great it is to have peers and communities that I can interact with and play in – without being geographically close to them. I thought fondly of those relationships that have been either been initiated online or mediated digitally from a distance, and I am thankful for how digital media as evolved. I am able to communicate  and enage with a variety of networks/communities beyond e-mail, discussion forums, and IM (Thanks VoIP, video, web conferencing, photo-sharing, social bookmarks, blogs, Twitter, social networks, and much more!).

For anyone who is interested in personal digital connections and what it means to be “connected” to a learning network, I think you will enjoy this book. As  digital identities and online communities grow, it will be critical to consider the issues Baym introduces in each chapter:

  1. New forms of personal connection – identity of the self online and offline, interactivity on the internet, and reviewing social context for digital media
  2. Making new media make sense – emerging technology reflection, social construction, technological determinism, and how technology shapes the social
  3. Communication in digital spaces – how digital media influences communication and personal expression; digital mediums and modes; context of communication
  4. Communities and networks – online networks, shared practices online, social integration, relationship development, lurkers, virtual “space” and community engagement/civic action; networked individuals vs. the collectivism
  5. New relationships, new selves? – meeting new connections, digital identity development, authenticity, socially mediated/constructed relationships
  6. Digital media in relational development and maintenance – building relationships with those you met online, mediated relationship development – influences & effects, social norms and information sharing