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Networking for Learning: The Role of Networking in a Lifelong Learner's Continuous Professional Development
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Networking for Learning: The Role of Networking in a Lifelong Learner's Continuous Professional Development

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This is my presentation from my public PhD defense. It is a brief lecture describing the main lines of my research, its outcomes and the contribution to the field. …

This is my presentation from my public PhD defense. It is a brief lecture describing the main lines of my research, its outcomes and the contribution to the field.
For any further information or a digital copy of my dissertation, please DM on Twitter or contact me on LinkedIN

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  • Thank you, most honorable chair.
    Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, members of the commission, colleagues, family and friends,
    Today I will briefly present my dissertation entitled “Networking for Learning – the Role of Networking in a Lifelong Learner’s Professional Development”.
  • Every professional, from a lawyer to a farmer, nowadays performs some form of knowledge work, involving non-routine problem-solving. To come up with suitable solutions, they are required to combine theory, practice, decision-making and creativity. An important aspect in all these professions is the need to build and maintain a personal professional network. The social practice of networking has become an essential skill for everyone.
    Networking events are targeted to all kinds of groups to encourage professionals to get to know each other and connect, to form new working relationships and, ultimately, to innovate and make their profession more attuned to the needs of current society.
  • Over the past years, we have seen instances in practice that show how we, as a society, recognize the importance of networking.
    On the one hand, we see that increasing numbers of teachers feel the necessity to go beyond the confines of their classrooms and expose their students to networking experiences during their studies. Whenever possible, many teachers take a step outside the school or college to bring in new people with new ideas and new methods to inform and guide their students. With the use of “Personal Learning Networks” in class, they encourage their students to establish continuous forms of networked support, to become confident lifelong learners.
  • On the other hand, we also see that networking has taken up a prime position in our online activities. Interacting with each other on social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter has become part of our daily routine for many of us. However, also for many of us, the connections made online seem to remain on a superficial level. A telling quote from Shirley Turkle’s TED talk “Connected, but Alone” shows that this form of messaging alone does not fulfill our inherent need for communication.
  • The term Networking describes a complex social activity covering, among others, relationship building, professional bartering (“I help you, you help me”), establishing new contacts, gaining mutual knowledge, building identity, and professional learning.
    Over the past four years, the questions that have intrigued me is to understand
    why networking plays an important role in professional learning
    where the value of networking lies for an individual and
    if the online support tools that we have created such as the social networking sites, can be improved to make online networking more meaningful for the individual learner.
  • So my research questions for this dissertation were:
    To what extent is learning in the social practice of networking facilitated by current online social network technologies?
    How can these technologies be designed to improve the support they offer to the user’s personal learning through networking?
  • Our research was set up in two stages:
    Our first part concerned understanding networking better, from the individual’s point of view. We observed and described how learners perceive and experience networking situations.
    Data was gathered from learners in networking contexts through interviews and survey and analysed with linguistic methodologies, focusing on the quality and characteristics of the experience, as it is perceived by the learner.
    Our second part was experimental as we were interested in improving current social networking technology to make valuable networking experiences possible online. We looked at current social networking platforms to see how learners expressed their understanding on these platforms. We then proposed a new components for the user profile and matching methods for online recommendation.
  • Two theoretical concepts helped us in understanding the learning aspect of networking: BREAKDOWN and COMMON GROUND.
    The central activity in networking is the conversation. In this image, you see two people talking about about the same concepts, but holding their own mental image about what these concepts are and how they relate to each other. When articulating their own mental view to the other person, through language, these two people will see a mismatch between what they think and the other person thinks. This mismatch causes breakdown to occur, and triggers each of them to re-asses their mental own understanding.
    To continue the conversation, these conversation partners will need to establish common ground, namely, those things that they agree upon. Further conversation can then discuss the differences and underlying assumptions behind their mental views.
  • The results of our research showed the following:
    Through networking, lifelong learners put themselves in situations where they can experience breakdown, a situation in which they can come across something unexpected or new, something that doesn’t match what they have thought before. This experience of breakdown then invites them to engage in individual and collaborative understanding – and this is where the learning value in networking stems from, from the individual’s point of view.
    In a networking experience, the learner is an active participant – who thinks, names and categorizes what she sees. This results in moments of clarity in which her environment, her individual background, her contacts and her goals are more aligned with each other.
    We also saw that building, maintaining and activating a personal learning network depends on the learner’s own qualities, the qualities of the possible contact and context-related factors.
  • Regarding the improvement of current technological support, our results show that the technical descriptions of a learner in a social networking sites can and should include a representation of the learner’s understanding of a topic. Additional to general descriptions and the user-created tags describing the topics the learner is interested in, we can also use user-created tag sets, to describe the relationships that the learner sees between these topics. Tag sets are representative of the learner’s personal understanding.
  • Moreover, we looked at recommendation for the purposes of learning within one social networking site, Scoop.IT.
    Here the results suggest that a user would connect with another person on the site if that person has been responsible for triggering an experience of breakdown. However, relevant content alone is not enough and more research is needed to see which other factors play a role in triggering an experience of breakdown,.
  • Recommendation in social networking sites so far has mainly focused on matching people on the basis of what they share or have in common.
    However, the results of this experiment show that matching on the basis of dissimilarity is more successful in predicting an experience of breakdown for the user.
    Also - but to a lesser degree - it is successful in predicting how relevant the content is for the user and how much the user would want to connect with the person sharing the content.
    This suggests that for learning purposes, you need to connect to people with whom you share some things, but also, with whom you do not share some significant things. This meaningful difference instigates the reason for breakdown and learning.

Transcript

  • 1. http://www.flickr.co m/photos/jirka_mat ousek/ http://www.loesje.or g/CEI2012
  • 2. “An 18 year old boy who uses texting for almost everything says to me wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.” S. Turkle. (2012) Connected, but Alone. TED Talks. http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together.html
  • 3. Relationship building Bartering New contacts Mutual knowledge … LEARNING Identity building
  • 4. To what extent is learning in the social practice of networking facilitated by current online social network technologies? How can these technologies be designed to improve the support they offer to the user’s personal learning through networking? RESEARCH QUESTION
  • 5. Interviews - Surveys Linguistic analysis with qualitative focus Experimental User profile Recommendation RESEARCH SET-UP
  • 6.  BREAKDOWN  COMMON GROUND
  • 7. Name Organisation Location Background Studies … Name Organisation Location Background Studies … Learning Network Learning Network Education Networking Conference Seminar Education Networking Conference Seminar Teacher Personal Learning Network Partnership Inverted Classroom Teacher Personal Learning Network Partnership Inverted Classroom COLLECTION OF TAG SETS COLLECTION OF TAGS GENERAL DESCRIPTION
  • 8. THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION For a digital copy of my dissertation, please contact me