Lone Wolf to Connected Cat: A #SquadGoalsNetwork Reflection from Melody Buckner

Lone Wolf to Connected Cat: A #SquadGoalsNetwork Reflection from Melody Buckner

A reflection by Melody Buckner 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?

Access to people, ideas and innovations have always driven my creativity and excitement in whatever field I find myself. My definition of access means having the ability to reach out for information, assistance or empathy with situations that are going on in my life.  The ability to interact and engage with other from different perspectives always challenges my thinking and makes me a better person.  I was a lone wolf instructional designer in an outreach capacity at my university when I first started ten years ago.  Now I am a connect cat with my claws into every corner of this campus.  If it was not for personal learning networks I would not have evolved or been able to make this type of leap.

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

The interaction I have had with colleagues from other institutions has strengthen my ability to relate not only to faculty, but students, administrators and community members.  My eyes have been open to new possibilities and perspectives that were sometimes in my blind spot.  It is important for me to constantly be learning and scanning the horizon for people and thought processes which can inform me on how to do my job better or relate to people in a new way.

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?

The quality of my work has increased by being exposed to excellence in teaching and learning through interaction with those who are top in their field.  I am inspired and motivated to be the best I can be through the examples set by others. When I go beyond the wall of my office and the confines of my own institution, I expand my thinking.  When I talk to people from different institutions with different missions I find new methods and best practices.  I take these thoughts and ideas back to my students and faculty.  I get excited about new ways of teaching and learning.  I build upon my foundation.  I never want to stay in the same place, but explore new avenues that will take me on new journeys in education.  I may come back to familiar methods, but never be the same.  I have heard that it is really hard for some artists to lip synch one of their songs, because they never sing the song the same way even though they have sung that song hundreds of time.  That is the way teaching should be, you may have to teach the same material, but never do it the same way – as you must adapt to the learners just like the singer adapts to the audience.  To make learning effect you must alway adapt your teaching and adapting meaning learning from others.

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

Personal learning networks are exactly that – personal.  We need to inspire students at every level of education to embrace their own learning journey and networks.  If we can do this then it is easy to scale.  Motivation is the key.  We can produce content and connections, but we need to produce this in a way that is meaningful and builds upon itself.  We also need to get students to create their own content and networks.  This is when true personal learning takes place.  Challenges include letting go of control when it comes to content and networks.  We are currently the gatekeepers, but that is changing through technology.  However, we as educators need to empower and inspire our students to want to build their own unique personal learning networks and learning journeys.

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?

Yes and no, being involved with these networks helped to shape ideas and talk about strategies, but implementation is the key factor.  Going back to campus is sometimes like coming down from the mountain top and back to the grind of village life.  You come back all excited and with new ideas, but others are caught up in their own day to life and don’t always embrace your thoughts with enthusiasm.   But I do think students benefit from initiatives that happen based upon what we learn through out personal learning networks.  Quality Matters is one of those initiative that has made an impact upon our faculty and it trickles over to the students with quality course design.  But this took many years to break down walls and build it into the fabric of our culture.

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