The Connected Learning Community
1.0 Introduce self and context and how technologies are being used (you can listen to our story)

The Connected Learning Community is a project for the 2006 E-learning Networks project, part of the Australian Flexible Learning Framework. It grew out of a project that Sean FitzGerald and I (Wendy Zammit) ran in 2005 called the Online Mentoring Network.

In that project we successfully created a learning community using an Edna Moodle and blogs, wikis and held online meetings using Elluminate but the project was still driven by one or two people, just as most courses are driven by the teacher.
This year we set out to explore the possibilities to explore the possibility of using web 2.0 tools to create a more organic learning community where no single members had the responsibility of "driving" the group, sending out emails and generally facilitating. The idea was to create the online equivalent of a face to face community where people know about each other's interests and can seek out the right person when the need arises.

2.0 What have you accomplished that you are most proud of by using social software?
We trained a large number of teachers in how to use social software which I believe will have a tremendous "trickle down effect".

The strategy focused around each individual in the community maintaining an online presence, preferably one which has an RSS feed so that other community members could be alerted to new posts.

We set up a clc wiki which demonstrated a lot of the tools http://clcommunity.wikispaces .com/

Several presentations and workshops were given and online resources created on
how to build a Personal Learning Environments and Personal Learning Networks.
Choosing an Online Presence
Online Presence Reviews
RSS Feeds and News Readers
Creating a Personal Learning Environment

A clc project blog to get the project up and going clcommunity.blogspot.com and a clcommunity feed at blogpot.com. Several workshops were held during which we taught key people some of the advanced web 2.0 technologies for creating online communities.
Community members were shown ways that they could then connect their web presences together which included:

  • setting up a Skype network
  • linking to each others blogs
  • commenting on each others blogs
  • tagging interesting websites with an agreed tag in del.icio.us
  • subscribing to the del.icio.us feed
  • uploading pictures of common interest to flick.r and giving them a common tag
  • subscribing to the flickr.feed.
  • creating a blogroll in bloglines so that new members to the community would be included.

We trialled this model among members of an informal Connected Learning Community and demonstrated it to 40 teachers at Sydney Institute (TAFE) doing a course in emerging technologies, to members of the Online Mentoring Network, to groups of students and to two community groups.


3.0 So far, what have you valued most about using social software for capability development and/or knowledge sharing?

  • great tools to develop community
  • empowering for my students
see my student blogging community http://regalrebecca.blogspot .com/
  • learning to use rss feeds and bloglines

4.0 What would you say have been the 3 or 4 key benefits? – for you, other participants / users, your organisation in general

  • a quick and easy and free way to create an informal network which is great for organisations with few institutional supports see Outreach blog
http://nswtoxcb.blogspot.com/

  • good way of building connections across time and space
  • reduces the dependence on email
  • good way of enabling sharing and generating incidental learning


5.0 What needs to change for your experience using social software for capability development and/or knowledge sharing to be even better?

The problems we experienced in the group were
  • lack of time by participants
  • forum and blog overload and over-commitment among participants
  • a preference for face to face and online interaction by many participants
  • issues about privacy
  • those willing to help others being "too accessible".

There is also the major threat hanging over us all that many of the Web 2.0 tools that we love will not be available to us next near because they will be blocked by DET censorship.


6.0 From your experiences so far, and thinking into the future (say 5 years or more?) what is your vision of the role of social software in capability development and/or knowledge sharing, and what 3 things would need to happen in the next 6 – 8 months to make this happen?

Vision:
A day in the life of the revolution in education known as Web 2.0
http://snipurl.com/12u4n

What needs to happen: Teacher training
More flexible IT policies (remove threat of losing access to external email accounts and web 2.0 tools).

7.0 What hints and tips do you have for the use of social software for capability development and/or knowledge sharing.

You can't just set up a PLE or online space and expect a network to just form around it.

Either you:

1) Have already spent time developing an online presence, which includes other's awareness that you exist (by being subscribed to your RSS, or example). It doesn't really work to just set up a project blog and post occasionally. That works as a newsletter, but not as a PLE or part of a network. There has to be a commitment to the PLE.

Or

2) Participating in the PLE/network is part of a course requirement.

There is also the broader problem of how to fit a networked learning model into the constraints of an institution. In networked learning we learn informally, either seeking out knowledge when we need it (just-in-time learning) or stumbling across it when we least expect it (reading mailing lists and RSS feeds etc.). It's an organic process that doesn't fit into the notion of pre-defined outcomes or a 12 week course.