The concept was very simple. In the large province of Ontario, we have people testing and exploring and learning about and with Web 2.0 technologies. Like so many things, though, it is in isolation and we learn what we can take away from these experiences.
So, this idea originated from Rob DeLorenzo from TheMobileLearner after the RCAC Symposium that we needed an opportunity to chat. Rob took the initiative and posted an invitation to get together to talk about the development of Personal Learning Networks. After all, everyone’s talking about them but who’s doing anything about it in Ontario?
I look at Personal Learning Networks like this. In your day to day life, you can use words like Twitter, Delicious, Facebook, Skype, Wikis, Blogs … and some people may join the conversation. But, even more just roll their eyes and think about the weather or other things and hope that you go away. Where do you turn after that? After all, we have managed to learn together in other venues like book clubs and we’re quite comfortable about this. An Online Personal Learning Network is a little different in that you learn online about the tools, using the tools. At this point, the notion is still in its infancy. I foresee a time when the concept becomes more seamless and fluid as connectivity and the tools mature. To be frank, I don’t know what it will look like but it’s exciting getting in on the ground floor and watch it mature.
So, Rob’s got this great idea and invites us to go online at a certain time at a certain location. No problem, says I, and I open my calendar to make an entry to ensure that I don’t miss it. Then, the problems start. In his zeal to make this a success, Rob has announced it on Twitter and in his blog. I’ve supported the notion by posting about it on my blog and on Twitter as well. It makes sense, right? Use the tools to announce such an event.
What was unforeseen was that this little online experiment might intrigue folks from the other side of the world. Now, in Ontario, we deal with two time zones. What to do when you have folks from 12 time zones away wishing to join in. Again, turn to the tools and we start to compromise on a time that would let a guest from Perth, Australia in on the action. Ultimately, we have participants representing a few Australian time zones, New Zealand, and Tasmania. Yes, I know that Tasmania is a state but I just like typing it. I’ve never used the word Tasmania in a blog post before…
Timing is easier when you just need to worry about Toronto, Amherstburg, Waterloo, Komoka and Ottawa. But, back to basics and a starting time of 6:00pm ET, 11:00pm GMT works out to early morning or noon for these participants and it’s locked in.
The first hurdle was to forget the large province of Ontario – there’s a whole world out there. There were a couple of other hurdles but they’re easily overcome when the host has more than one computer at his disposal and gets one that decides to play nice with Adobe Connect. Then, we’re off to the races.
Things fall into place even for me. Usually, for events like this, I have everything except for my good USB headset. As luck would have it, it is with me and I’m in chatting with friends, new and old, quite nicely.
The first session’s content didn’t solve all of the ills of the educational world. Rob took us though a presentation outlining his thoughts about Online Personal Learning Networks. We had a chat pod open with a great deal of back channeling happening and I worked as the gate keeper approving new guests as they arrived throughout. I think that, at its high mark, we had 21 or 22 folks participating.
After Rob’s presentation, we opened the floor to discussion and opened up a whiteboard for doodling at Jo’s request. The whiteboard quickly turned into a mind map as ideas were brainstormed. As I write this, I kick myself for not capturing the result. Rob’s closed off our meeting room so I can’t go in and snag it now but that’s OK.
The take away from this was learning that there is an interest among educators (Ontario and beyond) to get together and learn together in this manner. That’s a powerful concept when you think about it. Rob has just posted his reflections on the event and there are already queries about when the next one will happen.
This is good and a signal that we may be ready to stop learning in isolation. Stay tuned for an announcement of the next meetup.
Some learning links from the session: