It may surprise anyone who knows me (f2f or online), but I am a terrible networker. I am that person at the conference hugging the wall, studying my phone and looking for someone I actually know to talk to quickly before someone I don’t know strikes up a conversation.
And so, my current (and last) H818 module- The Networked Practioner- is really pushing me out of my comfort zone. I have learnt a lot since I started my Masters in Online and Distance Education, back in 2016 (!), not least, how to survive having twins and how to juggle 3 kids, full time work and part time education in a lockdown.
This module though is really rounding off and cementing in all of my masters learning. As I write, I think I really must do a post about where I was in 2016 and where I am now, because the difference is palpable.
For now, I am going to focus on H818, a module I have barely blogged about, a module I am over half-way through.
As you might expect, there is a focus on networking. That is, networking with peers. Including those you don’t actually know. For my project I have needed to ask the ed tech community for feedback and help on my project development and output. What I have learnt so far:
Word Press automatically changes hyphens to bullet points when it thinks you are writing a list
Unless you are an influencer with a massive following OR writing something incredibly controversial (and get piled on) the scatter-gun approach to Twitter posting doesn’t work.
Tagging people does work, but this presumes that you know who to tag in the first place.
Twitter DMs are great. I got in touch with some well respected professors and was blown away by the generosity shown to me, a part time masters student.
The ALT mailing list is much better for ed tech networking than Twitter. I was hesitant to use it for fear of spamming people, but I had 3 responses from people interested in my (theoretical) flipped learning website. I am confident I will have more responses when it’s not Christmas (what a time to try and network with people) and when I have an actual tangible website to show them.
Getting replies from people about your project is exciting and invigorating and makes you feel like you can change the world.
I also have learnt about giving and receving peer feedback on projects in development.
Getting feedback from peers can be painful at first, but you quickly become desensitised and see it for what it is, valuable constructive criticism.
Giving good feedback is time consuming and a learning process in itself. Also, it can be addictive. I loved seeing other peoples projects take shape, and I feel like I have really got to know my classmates in a much deeper way than on other modules. I want them all to succeed.
I recently checked to see how much feedback I had given and was shocked (and a little embarrassed) to see that I had replied to a whopping 137 comments.
What are my main takeways so far? I think what I have learnt will really help my career, I have taken myself out of comfort zone and emailed, Tweeted and DMed total strangers asking for help, asking to collaborate. Some of them replied and it was great! I have started to learn the true value of networking.
Amanda Palmer paints an arresting scene, standing atop her plastic crate, holding out a daisy. She immediately draws you into her talk in which she details how she crowd funds her music. A very entertaining 12 minutes, she is certainly very watchable.
In a nutshell, the TED talk is about asking the crowd for what you need when you need it.
I am not going to unpick the fine detail in Palmer’s story, and leave aside just how far-fetched, naive even, this idea seems to me. I am going to take it at face-value and interpret what I take to be the wider message. Which is ask for what you need when you need it in exchange for something (like a busker I suppose).
I am thinking about the idea of asking and sharing more broadly as it applies to my H818 project. For my project, money does not need to be exchanged. What I need is people’s ideas and knowledge to help build up a shared open resource.
Even in the Twitter-sphere I hestiate before asking for help. I don’t have masses of followers but I do have enough for me to not want to have (more) tumbleweed moments.
I have Tweeted a couple of times about OER on blended learning. The first one yeilded no concrete replies, though I did get some re-Tweets. The second time I focussed on asking for case studies on blended learning in the global south. I got a reply on Twitter and an email (via one of the module tutors), this email rather excitingly originated from an academic whose papers I have read over the past number of years.
So what does this mean for me now?
I think I need to be more focussed- and ask about specific countries to attract the attention of the people I need. E.g. tagging Pakistan, or Bangladesh. I will get the demographic list from my colleague to try and target these more.
Also, learning from Palmer, I need to offer something in return for info. People do like to help people, but perhaps they need to know what they are contributing to and why their help is needed. I need to think about how to include this information in a Tweet. You don’t get many characters to play with.
Thoughts, comments and questions always appreciated!
Would this even be a website if my first post wasn’t called “Hello world!”? Here’s a photo of a cat 😉
I aim to make this blog as jargon-free as possible, as overly-wordy text is one of my pet hates.
I am about to start the final year of my masters course- MA in Online and Distance Education (MA ODE) at the Open University. Sadly this course is being discontinued- I may blog about that in the future.
I have come far!
A year ago, I wouldn’t have even understood the “hello world” joke I just made.
I recently found some notes I wrote back in 2016 (my first year on the course), and I wrote “TEL= technology enhanced learning”. I probably would have considered “TEL” to be jargon, I also remember bristling at terms like “asynchronous” and “pedagogy” and I now use them all the time.
Food for thought though.
A year from now, will these posts be full of acronyms, backronyms, intialisms and words that only those involved with ed tech use?
My pledge for this blog
As I progress through the course, I will force myself to write posts here of at least 500-1000 words in length based on the week’s material. I have been inspired to do this by a colleague, who is studying on a similar course at a different university. She has to write 3 blog posts a week. I think this is a good idea, and am trying out myself -“dog-fooding” as one of my very charming colleagues would would it (hello Stephen ;P).
I pledge to keep this blog public, to ensure that my posts are ordered and make sense. Well that’s the idea anyway.
I suspect I will maintain my private journal too, for when I want to rant about something, as my rants are usually sweary and incoherent 😉
I also pledge to make this blog as accessible as possible, and free of copyright theft.