Sharing Discoveries While Learning Curiously: A #SquadGoalsNetwork Reflection from Tom Evans

Sharing Discoveries While Learning Curiously: A #SquadGoalsNetwork Reflection from Tom Evans

A reflection by Tom Evans 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?

Instead of challenging my definition of access, I feel that a personal learning network acts as a catalyst for thinking about the complexities that revolve around access.

Questions surface such as: Does privilege play a role in being able to have access to others?…Does mental health?

The challenge for me, personally, comes to the actual engagement in that access…but that is primarily centered in my own issues around self-confidence/advocacy/efficacy.

Let us not be too timid to extend…or grab ahold of… helping hands.

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

Meeting with and learning from individuals from other institutions has infused a strong attitude of the importance of student involvement and agency into the way I work with faculty and peers.

I think that encouraging and maintaining a consistent sense of mindfulness around learner experience, ownership, and agency can help us all avoid traps of familiarity and routine in our work.

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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?

Personal learning networks have consistently encouraged me to look into tools and how-to’s…but more importantly into the underlying currents of effective instructional design and building relationships…all of this with consideration of the complexities of student’s lives and its impacts on learning.

With this perspective, I have gained focus towards the learner experience and accessibility…striving to operate within the liminalities of simplicity and complexity…clarity and messy.

It is my hope that this provides a benefit and a balance to those I interact with at work…and in life.

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

My thinking around personal learning networks is that they are indeed personal…and unique to each person.

While there might be formalized collegial groups, I see it as much more informal and intimate. Our individualized circle of peers and influencers to which we trust, seek advice from, and occasionally engage with.

As an aside, I find that some folks within my network probably don’t know that they’re in any personal learning network, much less mine…much less even know who I am. Twitter might have its many flaws…however, it can often be great for this passive approach to ‘following’ someone and learning from how they think and do things.

That said, I feel that the inherent nature of a network is that which establishes cascading connections.

As far as challenges go, for one, there could be an initial resistance towards people who might be seen as ‘too’ difficult or different…or those that challenge us a bit too much. How much should we engage? How can we determine what is healthy with regards to differences…and what is toxic?

In the end, our personal networks grow and replicate to the extent that we maintain a mindset of approachability, openness, curiosity and love towards others….as we would hope others would have towards us.

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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?

Without a doubt. From informal conversations to watching projects unfold for someone in my network, there is a lot I’ve learned about the student experience that informs the way that I approach my work and my interactions with peers and faculty. Part of what I learned was understanding that there is a lot to learn…and a lot we don’t know… and that it’s ok to ‘not know’ something. That understanding can be quite liberating…and can free our minds to allow us to experiment within that arena of not-knowing. It’s often then that we discover something new that we can bring back into our teaching…our designing…our living that can be quite impactful for others…and ourselves.

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