Review of personal learning environment after ‘Why open’

At the beginning of the course, I had a go at planning my personal learning environment: I wrote about places that would help me gather my thoughts and connect with others who are interested in the topic of openness. Now that “Why Open” is nearly over, it’s time to look back at what actually happened.

Reading through what I had in mind a bit over a month ago in terms of learning environment, I find the picture rather close to the reality, except for a few details which I’ll explain here. Additional tools turned out useful as well besides the ones I had initially considered.

What didn’t work so well

I had thought about scheduling a face-to-face meeting with a fellow learner also based in Paris but this unfortunately did not happen. We were both busy and I don’t think she really had much time to delve deeper into the course so the meet-up had to be shelved. This does not mean we won’t discuss openness next time we meet, only that it didn’t happen during the time frame allocated to “Why Open”. The beauty of such a learning endeavour is that it goes well beyond the few weeks devoted to it.

I attempted to participate in 3 Google Hangouts but it’s fair to  say that they weren’t successful. My connection acted up and I wasn’t able to attend efficiently. On one occasion, the discussion was even moved to Twitter due to my connection problems…I said I wasn’t the biggest fan of Google Hangout, now the joke’s on me. Someone remove the curse the spirit of Google has placed on me! [FYI, I’m reading a book on voodoo and it hasn’t helped so far]

What worked as planned (or nearly)

This blog was indeed my central place for reflection, although I have neglected it of late. It was somewhat disappointing that so few people blogged consistently during the 4 weeks of the course. I guess my expectations were too high in this regard. To temper this, I must point out that the contributions (both posts and comments) were of very good quality.

Twitter‘s #whyopen stream was lively, especially during the weekly chat sessions. From my point of view, Twitter and the small groups were the main avenues for getting to know other learners in the course.

What worked better than expected

I quickly took to Delicious, a tool I was experimenting with for this course. It is not as social as I expected it to be (probably because I’ve only joined recently and don’t know many people on the platform yet) but I’ve found it an easy way to store up and organise articles I read online about education. I’ll definitely keep it up.

What I hadn’t thought of but turned out useful

There’s a ridiculously simple tool I hadn’t mentioned in my post on personal learning environment: Etherpads. We used pads to keep up with notes from live sessions, sign up for Hangouts, provide feedback, as well as to brainstorm our group’s activities.

I ended up trying out Audacity to record and edit a short commentary on the pre-course survey results which I uploaded on Soundcloud.

Flickr was always on a tab somewhere, as a source of CC illustrations.

The course is officially over – but for the final projects – but I hope that #whyopen was merely a more intense time in a longer conversation taking place on- and offline.

Open practice with #ds106 daily create: conclusion

In the last post, I exhibited some of the work I’ve produced this week in connection with the Daily Create challenge. It is now time to reflect on this experience of open practise.

How was your activity an open practice in your view?

I shared my daily create artifacts under a creative commons attribution license (CC BY), with the intention of empowering anybody to pick up my piece and make something new and creative out of it. Perhaps nobody ever will, but I want to leave all doors open for this to happen.

Reading through Alan Levine’s entries, it occurred to me that I could have been more open about the process leading up to the artifacts I shared, both in terms of technology and inspiration.

Did you run into any problems or barriers?

I did not feel confident enough to contribute to the video and gif assignments suggested this week. When I opened the daily create page, there were already a couple of gif submissions and I just felt overwhelmed by my incompetence. It froze any idea of things I could do at my own level.

I haven’t overcome this barrier so far: all I did was avoid the obstacle…and I’m not particularly proud of it.

Was this process beneficial to you in some way?

While I wasn’t able to respond to each prompt, the daily create assignments introduced a routine of thinking about ways I could express myself creatively. My preferred medium has always been words and I tend to refrain from venturing publicly into unfamiliar territories such as photography because of how harshly I judge my own output.

Daily Create had a liberating effect on me because the act of creation is repeated every day so failing once doesn’t bite away at your enthusiasm for the next day’s creative assignment. You can check out what others have made, maybe find out how they did it, fiddle with GIMP as time allows. In the worst case, you’ll have spent 20 minutes of your day struggling with a software you can’t bend to your will. You get up the next day, ready to take on a new challenge, knowing you have people around to support you.

Two things happened from there:

  1. I made my first (very imperfect) animated gif
  2. I joined the headless ds106 course starting tomorrow

So, I say ‘yay’:

What did you learn through this process about openness, or about anything else?

On the technical side of things, I tried out GIMP which was a bit frustrating at first, tough well worth the effort. I can’t say that I master all the nuts and bolts of the software but I’ve got the basics down at least.

I also played around with the back-end (CSS) of my Tumblr theme to add the Disqus comments widget, which I am glad to report was a successful operation.

Comment thread on Tumblr. 25th August 2013.

Comment thread on Tumblr. 25th August 2013.

More importantly, I learnt that no matter how lousy you think you are at photography/animation/telling jokes/*insert activity*, that’s no excuse to limit your self-expression to media you’re comfortable with.

Practice makes perfect.

Practice + sharing + community feedback + more practice = still imperfect but a lot better.

Getting ready for #whyopen : my personal learning environment

There are only a few days left before the start of #whyopen on P2PU and I am starting to think about the way I want to design my personal learning environment to make the most of the course.

I decided to write this down partly as a note to myself and partly to invite other learners to comment and possibly compare with their own practice of online learning. I’m excited to find out how learning will emerge and what the outcomes will be.

On the personal front, it might be instructive to go back to this post at the end of the course to:

  • check whether I’ve actually used all the tools I intended to and to what extent,
  • list additional tools/networks I had not initially thought of but turned out to be useful,
  • determine how I can keep on sharing with the networks set in motion by this course.

I’m also curious to observe how others use the learning opportunities afforded by the web 2.0. I consider this to be  part of the learning experience : a form of metalearning, if you will!

Blog(s)

This blog will be a central place for gathering thoughts on the discussions happening during the course. I hope I’ll manage to produce at least one post a week. Other people’s blogs curated on the bloghub should also be a great source to draw from and build upon.

Twitter

I already use Twitter quite a lot as a source of links to interesting content as well as a platform to interact with people I know personally. I think the #whyopen Twitter feed will be a good place to chat and share resources.

Delicious

As much as I like Twitter, information tends to disappear in the backlog after just a few days. Besides, links posted on Twitter are not very easily searchable: that’s why we have curation tools like Storify and Delicious.

I’ve just opened a Delicious account to save links I come across and might want to take up reading later. It’s meant to be an improvement on my current ‘semi-open’ system of organising learning resources.

I would normally find the content through a direct search or thanks to my peer networks, read/view it and then share it on Twitter with relevant hashtags. If it’s really valuable information or too complex to all take in at one go, I’d bookmark the page and/or download the content onto my laptop where I sort my documents in folders.

This system is found lacking in areas which might be improved by Delicious: I can place a document in several folders if it belongs to different topics but it’s certainly not as efficient a method as a tag cloud; There’s little room for systematic interest-based social interactions beyond the immediate discussions arising from the links posted on Twitter. More in-depth conversations happen organically on Facebook from time to time though.

Let’s see if I can include Delicious in my learning routine.

Google Hangout ? In person meet-ups?

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to join all the Google Hangout meet-ups but I’ll probably watch most of them once they are posted on YouTube.

There’s at least one other student here in Paris who’s taking the course. I’m tempted to contact her so we can meet up and chat about ‘Why Open’.

Challenges I hope to overcome

Although I appreciate the potential benefits of posting videos, I still feel a bit apprehensive about putting myself out there via this medium.

My barriers regarding this medium are of two kinds :

  • Technical issues : I know how to record a video on my laptop’s webcam and post it on YouTube or on my blog but editing is still a major challenge. It’s definitely something I consider within my reach, though I tend to relent from spending hours battling with a video editing software until I come up with a satisfactory result.
  • Perceived lack of legitimacy : who am I to speak my mind to the world ? This links back to feeling too shy to speak in front of a learned audience or even just a large gathering. It’s weird to observe how much more comfortable I feel expressing myself in writing.

Maybe I should make this one of my goals for the final project: to record, edit and post my story as a video!

What about you? How are you planning to engage with this course?