My PLN Brings Joy, Knowledge, Ideas, and Micro Distributed Dance Parties – A #SquadGoalsNetwork Reflection from Clark Shah-Nelson

My PLN Brings Joy, Knowledge, Ideas, and Micro Distributed Dance Parties – A #SquadGoalsNetwork Reflection from Clark Shah-Nelson

A reflection by Clark Shah-Nelson on the power of personal learning networks.

ACCESS – Does regular access to other individuals from other institutions and institutional perspectives challenge your definition of access and what it means? If so, how?

Seeing how other institutions think about, act on, and implement practices and policies related to access and accessibility has expanded my definition of access and knowledge of ways to foster change for a more inclusive world. It has been eye-opening to see how some institutions have created new leadership and operational roles to facilitate the implementation of accessible teaching and learning. Many institutions have not moved beyond having a person who simply informs the community about various legal obligations, without actually providing the needed support, training, and practical infrastructure to meet those obligations. Being a part of a PLN has exponentially increased my knowledge and skills with creating accessible learning opportunities and the multitude of ways that diversity and inclusion can be enhanced.

FACULTY SATISFACTION – How has your participation in the PLN benefitted faculty and colleagues at your home institution?

Faculty and colleagues in my home institution have benefitted from participation in the PLN through the vetting and adoption of various technologies, strategies, tools, and techniques. Whether I ask and get feedback from PLN colleagues or simply see their posts, recommended tools and strategies have been implemented for my home institution. From faculty development opportunities, to informal learning sessions to running a local Technology Test Kitchen, these ideas can quickly pass from one institution to another and increase both staff and faculty awareness of what works and doesn’t. In some cases, one institution hosts a virtual faculty development opportunity, which, when picked up in the PLN, is then attended by faculty at fellow institutions. With the ubiquitous nature of synchronous audio-video conferencing more and more opportunities should be shared across these networks.

LEARNING EFFECTIVENESS – When you reflect on your work, how has meeting and learning from individuals from other institutions and institutional perspectives helped you to clarify or re-define what it means for learning to be effective?

One of the best examples of clarifying or re-defining what it means for learning to be effective is the proliferation of learning analytics. Seeing the way some institutions explore, adopt, and/or implement these has redefined and magnified some of the ways that the learning process can be observed and measured. Also by having a cohort to run ideas, assessments, or learning activities by before implementing, it has the effect of filtering out unnecessary aspects and highlighting essential ones, based on the experience of others.

SCALE – Is the PLN scalable and/or replicable by others at other institutions/organizations? If so, how? What challenges do you encounter?

The PLN is extremely replicable and scalable for any kind of institution or organization. What is needed first and foremost is a desire to communicate, learn and grow with some like-minded individuals. Next, a common asynchronous communication tool is needed, such as email, instant messaging (Slack, HipChat, Teams, etc.), Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN or even SMS texting. This is perhaps the first challenge – to establish which tools and/or communications media (and combinations thereof) are common and/or usable to all.  A synchronous conferencing tool is also handy to facilitate live get togethers, hack-a-thons, jam sessions, and micro distributed dance parties.

STUDENT SATISFACTION – Do you feel that your involvement and/or collaboration with the PLN has helped you create better student experiences at at your institution?

Anything that we can do to elevate our message, innovate, communicate, or serve and support our students enhances their learning experiences. It can be very hard to generate new ideas and innovate when residing within the silo of one department, one institution, one context. By connecting with and learning about a variety of styles, strategies, and resources from our PLN friends, we gain diverse insight into more possibilities. The ways we work with faculty and the ideas we discuss with faculty enhance not only their experiences but those of students as well. Whether it is the realm of technical support, instructional design, instructional technology, learning analytics, library resources, or trainings and orientations, having access to a diverse network of experiences, knowledge and ideas is beneficial for organizations.

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