Photo by Ryan McGuire at

Week 1 of ONL 161 has been all about connecting and networking. We connect to the course material and to each other via Google drive, WordPress, Adobe Connect and Twitter. Setting up blogs, Google plus accounts and twitter handles was not new to a number of participants, but it was a huge learning curve for some of us.

It was such a relief to have attended the face to face starter meeting at KI to figure all this out with my peer group. At least when you feel lost, you can look at the body language around the room and be pretty sure you are not alone! Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development came to mind, when the totally inexperienced (me) found people with a bit more knowledge and so, got the main tools set up. As mentioned in my first blog post, just getting started on the basics felt like a huge achievement. What I hadn’t fully appreciated at the time, was that that meeting set the tone for the connections and networks that would develop in the weeks ahead.

The first practical step this week was to meet my PBL group and facilitators. We used Adobe Connect, which was great because of its multi-sensory nature. We could see, hear and write to each other. Seeing and speaking to each other meant that we quickly got a sense of each other’s personalities and thankfully, we seemed to hit it off from the beginning. Had this been a flat, text based or asynchronous introduction I don’t think it would have given us such a solid foundation.

Creating a prezi of our team meant we shared some personal details and quickly started to get to know each other better, not as teammates or classmates, but as people you wouldn’t mind having a coffee with, some of whom can BBQ, some of whom can even fly.


All of us in the PBL group could relate to elements of this week’s scenario, so we had plenty of inspiration for our project. When working towards a common goal, a shared understanding is a good starting point! Having a shared understanding does not mean that we are a homogenous unit. We have different skills and backgrounds and personalities, but we like each other and we are interested in the course. As Rita Pierson states in her TED talk, ‘Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like’! Well, I’m not sure adults do either. So, we connected with each other because we were assigned to this PBL group. As adults, we would likely only stay connected if it was a positive experience. Already in week 1, one of our group decided that the PBL group was not for him, and moved on.

So, the technical and personal connections have begun. What about networking?


At this early stage, and especially for newcomers to these technologies, jumping right in to networking may not be top of the agenda. Figuring out what to do, where and by when is a far more pertinent concern. However, sharing each group’s work with the wider class should allow for connections to grow over time, for old acquaintances to be renewed and for new networks and friendships to flourish. For me, much what I hope to gain from the connecting and networking involves building my awareness of the tools that are ‘out there’, and thinking about how I could incorporate some of them into my own courses. Being part of this ONL group and having a network of classmates to ask about how they did something or where they found it, is worth its weight in gold!


To sum up then, connecting and networking doesn’t just happen. Firstly, the conditions have to be right. With scaffolded support from facilitators, course leaders and peers, we may gain the confidence to reach out to each other and make connections that will help us navigate this course and beyond.

In a recent article, Doug Belshaw claims we bring three sets of ‘baggage’ to technology – toolsets, skillsets and mindsets. If anything can grow and update all three, surely, it is connecting and networking with great people about very interesting topics!





Vygotsky, Lev; Zone of Proximal Development, discussed in (accessed 29th April 2016)


Pierson, Rita; TED talks education, May 2013, available at: (accessed 29th April 2016)


Belshaw, Doug, 2016, available at: (accessed 28th April 2016)

Connecting and Networking