“…so leave your message and I’ll call you back
You’re intruding on what’s mine
And you’re taking up my time
Don’t have the courage inside me
To tell you please let me be
Communication, a telephonic invasion
I’m planning my escape…”
In 1995, Gwen Stefani crooned these lines, part of the song “Spiderwebs” allegedly about a woman being stalked by someone who calls her to share everything he’s doing (like thinking about her, telling her how a song made him think about her, etc). These were the early days of the internet at home and the sharing of information described in the song happened through the phone – who would have imagined that barely just a decade later, social media was exactly about that? Using the web to share, share, and overshare at any time, any day, whether the other person wanted it or not. Creating new networks, webs, sticky and ever-growing. One may argue that there’s always an element of consent; one can opt-out of using social media altogether, yet, keeping track that nobody shares anything related to you is a whole different story. After all, some of us are actually forced to have an online presence as part of our work (call this flashback to week 1). Anyway, the whole situation with social networks more than once made me wonder what exactly we were getting out of (idle) online interactions with no purpose other than… “sharing”?
Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that when topic 4 started, I started humming the above-referenced song.
I have to confess this is not the first time I have come across the notion of learning networks, social networks, social learning, and the combinations between these concepts.
In early 2000, someone asked me what I thought about the “learning networks initiative” of the organization I worked for. I believe that was the first time I heard of such a concept, and I still remember how I clumsily drew a map with what looked like amoebas trying to illustrate my understanding of what a learning network is about.
Kalmar et al. (2022) remark that lecturers and student counselors should all make the need for social interactions as part of the learning experience explicit and discussable made me wonder about the role that educators play in learning networks to fulfill their purpose.
While in in-person setups, educators are also learners in online formats, this is even more relevant, as educators need to learn new technologies, formats, tools, etc.
Joining efforts with another PBL was an interesting experiment. On the one hand, our original group was used to its ways and had developed its own rhythm, which made it somewhat challenging to find a way to collaborate with people used to other styles and more into synchronous working.
Looking back, the group merger experiment resembled the amoebas I drew so long ago; now it’s just a matter to find an analogy that embraces the bright side of spiderwebs (resilient, collaborative, yet fragile) and shows the beauty binary-fission-like inclusion, adaptability, and growth.