It takes just under a minute for blood to circulate throughout the body. Our blood, our lifeline, cannot move on its own–it needs the heart. The heart pumps the blood in and out allowing this vital fluid to travel to the head, organs and limbs. With this in mind, I want you to consider the importance of on-line communities. Aren’t they an important lifeline in the digital age?
More and more people are relying on their on-line communities to help them grow personally and professionally. In fact, many of us are becoming dependent on social media so much so that it has become hard to separate the real world from the virtual world. As teacher and a librarian I cannot imagine my working life without on-line communities and Web 2.0 tools. Being connected to others on-line is important to me because it is a world where my students naturally and virtually live. If I want to connect to my students I need to live in their world. My graphic representation of the body and the major arteries reflects how my personal learning environment (PLE) has become my lifeline. I placed the learners (and their social media networks and Web 2.0 tools) where the heart is because they are why I do what I do! They motivate me to connect (to make that vital fluid circulate from head to toe). They motivate me to become a better learner and a better teacher. My students and I often “learn and grow” together, and these tools enable us to do that.
In order to connect with my students I need to utilize the right tools. For example, if I want to present a topic to my students it is beneficial to have the right tool for the right job. I like how Glogster allows me to “collect, store and present” materials on a unified theme or topic. I can have video clips, still images, web links, and word documents all in one place. Glogster brings all of the materials together but it also brings the entire class together. Students glean what they can, then they move onward and upward. They can use this Glogster document to connect, learn, create, and share. More importantly though, is this: how did I learn about Glogster? Why, from my professional on-line community of course! Tools are often touted via Twitter, blogs and/or wikis. If I did not belong to these communities how would I know what to use to connect to my students. Like Donne says, “no man (or woman or child) is an island”. We cannot really function in isolation– we need others to learn and grow. Furthermore, my courses, like EdTech 541 and 543, also encourage me to step out of my comfort zone. These courses foster new connections, ideas and possibilities. Lifelines like these make me a better learner, and hopefully, a better teacher. That is why the head on my PLE diagram is chock-full of on-line communities (eg. BSU moodle, Linkedin, Google+, Classroom 2.0 Live). I became more connected because of these courses and these communities. If I am going to do what is best for my students I cannot live and work in isolation. Webinars, Twitter chats, Web 2.0 tools are lifelines that every connected teacher needs. A human being cannot live without blood; a networked teacher cannot live without on-line communities. It is as simple as ABC or 123.
Based on my peers’ PLE diagrams I think they are realizing the same thing. Some placed themselves (via a personal image or symbol) at the centre of their digram, then they surrounded this “Self” with their networked on-line communities. Essentially this placement implies that they cannot live and work in isolation either. Communities are all around us, and we feel a need to tap into these communities whether it is for educational or professional purposes. Many of us belong to similar communities (like Google+ or Linkedin) yet each of us belongs to our own unique communities (Edmodo or Adobe) depending on the work we do. This suggests that people join the communities that will serve them the best. We do not try to join every community; instead we choose the one(s) that is (are) the most beneficial.
Besides this, I noticed that some of my peers often choose imagery or items that represent the real world as well as the virtual world. A bridge, a bee, a computer mouse, or building blocks indicate that some individuals want to be rooted in the real world as much as they want to be networked in the virtual world. Communities are everywhere. What is truly interesting is that there is a need to join communities anywhere, anytime and anyway we can. Again, this reinforces our need to belong–to be part of a whole. Perhaps these real world symbols also reveal that our work (and our employers) requires us to look or reach outward not just inward any more.
More and more of us are realizing that our professional and personal worlds are becoming intertwined or interchangeable because social media and Web 2.0 tools lend themselves to both purposes. The flexibility of these tools really encourages the user to manipulate them based on their needs. Friends might use Facebook to decide where to meet for breakfast, or peers might use Facebook to gain insight into the world of PLEs. It is up to us to decide what tool to use when, or what community to join when.
As role models, each of us must lead by example. To do that we need to become networked citizens–in the real world and the virtual world. Our communities nurture us, and allow us to learn and grow so that we may serve others. Our personal learning communities help us thrive–they are our lifelines!
To create, present and share my PLE diagram I tapped into my real world community and tools (art paper, scissors, pencil, and a “real” student model) and my on-line community and tools (iPhone apps, Facebook, and blog) too.