Topic 3, Learning in communities, kicked off with the webinar given by Kay Oddone, Learning in communities 2022-11-07. I also watched her YouTube video, PLNs Theory and Practice, part 1, in which Kay describes insights from her research on “teachers’ experience of professional learning through personal learning networks (PLNs).” I learnt about networked collaborative learning, the differences between communities and networks, etc.
The webinar was followed by the PBL group meetings, like for the two previous topics; only this time, my original group, PBL5 merged with PBL3, halfway through the meetings. It was a happy merger as the combined group collaborated well synchronously and asynchronously, leading to an interactive presentation using the genially tool. We based our sharing on the metaphor of a football team. It was genuinely collaboration in action, with group members contributing according to their strengths.
Collaborative learning, I reflected, is not new to me as the language and communication centre where I work has promoted this approach for the staff since around 2019. I have taken part in projects like (1) Collaborative Classroom Observation, (2) Classroom Buddies and (3) Mentors on Demand. Each of these collaborations should ideally lead to an artefact/product. Perhaps the most satisfying one for me was the last project where my colleague and I jointly published a journal paper on classroom interventions, and then a blogpost on mentor-mentee collaboration (Fong & Tan, 2021). We also presented a conference paper on interventions. These projects helped me to transition from my more “lone-wolf” efforts in teaching and research prior to the centre’s focus on collaboration.
What is new is the idea of building my own PLNs, instead of riding on the initiatives of my centre and working with colleagues. That would require me to form new and wider networks than I have done before. I am mulling over how I can continue to initiate learning with others as I have been doing with ONL participants and PBL groupmates. In our last PBL3+ meeting, we shared our hopes of staying in touch and continuing to learn from one another. That will be a good start for building PLNs
I have known Vygotsky’s works in my pedagogical practice, especially his sociocultural theory that views human development as a socially mediated process (1978). A child (novice) learns through social interaction with and scaffolding by a skilful tutor (expert). Going beyond the novice-expert paradigm, I need to continue to encourage peer-to-peer team building and collaboration. That means keeping this aim in mind at each stage, from course design, to lesson planning and task coaching, in an authentic and effective way. All the while, my students need to grow in trust and responsibility towards one another.
Moving into the new normal of hybrid learning, I gleaned some lessons from Kalmar, et al. (2022). For online segments, I can aim to “encourage the formation of learning communities through collaborative social networks and promote versatile interactions and communications between students.” This might be achieved through getting groups or classes of students to leverage Telegram, which seems a very popular platform among NUS students. Kalmar, et al. (2022) also encourage instructors to plan physical sessions for students to meet in order to increase socio-emotional interactions and peer feedback.
All these efforts in collaboration are to work together for good to help my students and me build our learning networks and communities.
Fong, Y. S. & Tan, D. (2021, Feb 1). Mentoring Partnership: The Three Cs of our Mentoring Partnership. Teaching English and Communication in Higher Education. https://blog.nus.edu.sg/celcblog/2021/02/01/mentoring-partnership-the-three-cs-of-our-mentoring-partnership/
Kalmar E, Aarts T, Bosman E, Ford C, de Kluijver L, Beets J, Veldkamp L, Timmers P, Besseling D, Koopman J, Fan C. (2022). The COVID-19 paradox of online collaborative education: when you cannot physically meet, you need more social interactions. Heliyon, 8(1), e08823.
PLNs Theory and Practice by Kay Oddone, part 1.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society. The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.