#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
#phdchat, PhD, Virtual Communities

Organizational Learning Constructs

The nature of learning at the organizational level is a challenge to measure. Huber (1991) defines  organizational learning as the development of new knowledge or insights that have the potential to influence behavior.

There are a number of human resource development articles that reflect the individual learning experience and objectives. In considering the organizational learning process, I began to look at the organization level for learning in online communities of practice for an organizational science perspective.

Image via Organizational Learning Software… <http://www.sqakki.com/LearningOrg/>

In researching and working on my final organizational theory paper, I began to assess how learning characteristics can be evaluated in online learning networks and communities of practice. There are a number of models and evaluation instruments to assess learning in organizations; however the constructs established by Yang, Watkins, and Marsick (2004) provide a solid framework for methodology and empirical assessment:

Systems Thinking – Senge (1990) identifies a learning organization as an organization that has the ability to creat alternative futures and possesses the following five disciplines: team learning, shared visions, mental models, personal mastery and system thinking. 

Learning Perspective – The learning organization is an “organization that facilitates the learning of all of its members and continuously transforms itself in order to meet its strategic goals” (Pedler, Burgoyne & Boydell, 1991). Eleven areas are identified through which this occurs: a learning approach to strategy, participative policymaking, informating, formative accounting and control,, internal exchange , reward flexibility, enabling structures, boundary workers as environmental scanners, inter-company learning, learning climate and self-development for all.

Strategic Perspective – a learning organization requires an understanding of the strategic internal drivers necessary for building learning capacity. Goh (1998) identifies five core strategics building blocks: clarity and support for mission and vision, shared leadership and involvement, a culture that encourages experimentation, the ability to transfer knowledge across organizational boundaries, and teamwork and cooperation.

Integrative Perspective – the concept of the learning organization is “on that learns continuously and transforms itself..Learning is continuous, strategically used process – integrated with and running parallel to work” (Watkins & Marsick, 1996).

These constructs will help define and lay the ground work to establishing a solid theoretical framework for assessment. I welcome any and other suggestions to reviewing online communities of practice with regards to organizational learning.

References

Huber, G.P. (1991). Organizational learning: The contributing processes and the literature. Organization Science, 2; 88-115.

Goh, S. C. (1998). Toward a learning organization: The strategic building blocks. S.A. M. Advanced Management Journal, 63(2); 15-20.

Peddler, M., Burgoyne, J., & Boydell, T. (1991). The learning company: A strategy for sustainable development. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Random House

Watkins, K.E. & Marsick, V. J. (1996). In action: Creating the learning organization. Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training and Development.

Yang, B., Watkins, K. E., & Marsick, V.J.(2004). The construct of the learning organization: Dimensionsmeasurement, and validation. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 15(1); 31-55.

Collaboration, Learning Community, PLE, Professional Development, Social Media, Virtual Communities

#Hashtag + Community = Learning?

Photo c/o Flickr User drips

Hashtag – The Definition [and then some]

I value my learning networks and those communities I engage, listen, follow and participate in online on a regular basis. In thinking about my PLN, I often rely on a few of #hashtags for information, resources, support and more! Here’s a quick visual c/o Wordle:

In thinking about my initial involvement with #hashtags and learning communities I often ponder people, categories, and the learning groups I am an active member in. Earlier in my involvement with a few #hashtag groups, I am reminded of preliminary tweets from various groups and consider newbie reactions to the community who might share initial uncertainty of involvement and question what is happening and how the conversation evolves:

It isn’t until later that I have engaged with these communities and realized the potential for my own learning and development – personally and professionally. This evening, I was fondly reminded of the impact and appreciation during the #AcAdv Chat and how a simple #hashtag can unite and connect an online learning community :

A question I threw out to my Twitter friends this evening was – “Pondering my hashtags this evening… what ones do you follow to learn, engage, connect, etc? Please share.” Here was the quick response:

A combination of ideas initiated after these immediate query & response on Twitter – is it the #hashtag, person or community you are engaged with? Will your #hashtag live on? How do you form effective learning networks on Twitter? What combination of people & #hashtags will meet the need in ones PLN? These are further investigation areas I will consider to ponder in my research and studies. Your thoughts and ideas are always welcome.

Learning Community, Networked Practice, PLE, PLN

Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) & Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)

Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) & Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) are a forced to be reckoned with as technology becomes more accessible and user-friendly.

pler

On October 13-16, 2009, the online symposium on learning-centric technology shared ideas on how PLEs & PLNs are impacting the educational technology field. Here’s a bit more from the symposium organizer’s George Siemens & Stephen Downes:

The interest in Personal Learning Environments has grown with the emergence of Web2.0 technologies. Learning technologists can see how PLEs can help learners to organize their own personal learning, rather than that formal education institutions control the technologies that are being used and the way in which they are being used. Speakers will include developers and researchers of PLEs. All events will be hosted in Elluminate and recorded for archives. A discussion forum will be hosted in Moodle for asynchronous interactions.

Although I was working during the scheduled speakers, I managed to read posted materials and listen to the one of the recorded sessions . There are a wealth of great experiences & ideas archived online, and I hope to listen/learn more  in the upcoming weeks. Many of these speakers are leaders and pioneers in the PLE & PLN learning field.

For those of you interested and engaged in contributing your own educational experience with personal learning environments/networks, might I suggest you also check out the Call For Chapters for an upcoming eBook by Athabasca University and the National Research Council of Canada.